Vic Hoyland

In Transit - Vixen CD Review - Gramophone

In transit - Vixen

Richard Whitehouse, Gramophone, June 2002

In transit - Vixen
BBC Symphony Orchestra / Martyn Brabbins
NMC NMCD072 (53 minutes DDD)

Two major compositions in Hoyland's output, In transit particularly deserving

Although Vic Hoyland has been a presence in contemporary music for three decades, his music has been poorly represented on disc. So this NMC release is more than welcome. Like Maxwell Davies before him, Hoyland has moved from 'theatrical' writing and music theatre to a more sustained and abstract discourse, yet with nothing dry or didactic in the outcome.

While the sound world of In transit - with its pungent, rhythmically abrupt gestures - is in the mould of much 1980s British orchestral music, the clarity with which Hoyland derives melodic , continuity from rhythmic disjunction is his alone. Listen to the way that he uses a soulful flute idea (3'06") to seamlessly transform the musical sequence of events, making the restrained outburst for strings (7'40") and rhapsodic intervention for cor anglais (13'57") integral to its heightened emotional curve. The closing section - spurred on by antiphonal percussion - signs off with deadpan finality. In transit should have had far more performances since its 1987 Proms premiere, and this zestful recording ought to give it the profile it deserves. A decade on, and Vixen represents an ambitious attempt to synthesise facets of Hoyland's idiom thus far. The five continuous sections again explore (and exploit) melodic line - though, after the opening percussive gesture, the first two sections pursue gestural and linear conflict in relatively subdued terms. While the third section injects greater dynamism, it is the quietly sustained string threnody of the fourth (3'09") which marks the emotional climax, before the fifth section powerfully sublimes the conflicting elements in an evocative haze of bell-sounds (from 6'48").

At over 35 minutes, Vixen, may just overreach itself in terms of duration relative to incident, but its deftness of formal logic and orchestration are admirably conveyed by Brabbins and the BBCSO. A pity the related 1980s chamber piece Fox could not have been included, but if this and the String Quartet are likely to feature on a follow-up IHoyland disc, so much the better.