Joby Talbot's music is increasingly popular and its surface attractions help to explain why. His 2008 'water symphony', the 72-minute Tide Harmonic began existence as a dance score called Eau for a French production choreographed by the American, Carolyn Carlson. It was first performed in Lille in April 2008. This in turn generated the desire to record the work, which was duly carried out the following year.
It is, as with all Talbot's music, wholly approachable. It opens with a flurry of droplet percussion, conjuring up precise but rather hypnotic warmth and moves from there with increasing density (but clarity) of sound, thrumming toward open lyricism. The instrumentation of five violins, viola, two cellos, bass, two harps, and then piano, celesta and harmonium ensures that textures are clear and aerated. The effusiveness of the two harps, rippling away, gives its own sound-world to the five movement symphony. Hadal Zone is the name of the second movement, a frozen but never static place, indeed lissom in its central section where one hears some rolled chords and romantic expression, tangy tremolandi and a well managed steady crescendo. The central movement sounds to me to be the Scherzo. Called Storm Surge it is, at nine minutes, the most compact of the five and also the most propulsive, with plenty of kinetic wave energy—a storm at sea with funky patterns. Algal Bloom returns us to thin strands of sound; it's a kind of Adagio, with plenty of minimalist sounding repeated pattern riffs, before music accretes to music and it develops greater athleticism and sweep. The finale is Confluence, a cleansing, rather lovely affair—filmic, visual, the harp figures promising the hope of renewal.
Talbot's reputation as an accessible and enjoyable composer will certainly take no hits from this latest recording. It's the antithesis of Boulez.