Vic Hoyland

In Transit - Vixen CD Review - Int Record Review

In transit - Vixen

International Record Review, May 2002

Hoyland In transit - Vixen
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins.
NMC NMCD072 (full price, 53 minutes) Producer, Anthony Burton, Engineer Mike Clements Date April 18th-20th. 2000

One problem for a contemporary composer is the difficulty of writing melodies that don't hark back to an earlier epoch – mock-Mozart, sham-Chopin. The risk of succeeding is that the result will not be perceived as melody. In these two powerful works Vic Hoyland seems to have solved that problem very convincingly. His melodies, which you could describe as neither tonal nor atonal, are sufficiently melodious to be easily recognizable when they recur: this is important in In transit, where in three 'cycles', melodic material receives quite different treatment (including movement in space between two orcestras) and as a result intensifies to considerable eloquence. Vixen can be read as a fruitful conflict between melodic and non-melodic material, culminating in a memorable paragraph which the booklet note understandably calls 'Mahlerian'. But that adjective describes the feeling and the context rather than the melodic language. Context indeed (that passage arrives in the fourth of five closely argued movements) makes it obvious that the melody is in fact characteristic of its composer.

The sound is often hard-edged and metallic, with much use of percussion as part of the music's vigorous rhythmic language. The much longer Vixen expands on this, with a broader and very imaginative range of sonority and rhythmic process. Sharply differentiated rhythmic fragments seem to generate melody, most notably in the third movement where a fine, angular figure strides grandly through a harsh climax. The Mahlerian string melody is its destination, but the non-melodic material is not quelled; it is not a conflict after all.

Hoyland's music must he very difficult to play, but there is no sign of it in these splendid and lucidly recorded performances. He is an impressively accomplished composer and NMC has yet again put us in its debt by recording important music which none of the 'major' labels seem to have time for.

Michael Oliver