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Symphony Orchestra album reviewed in The Times

10 April 2018

Cardiff University Symphony Orchestra playing in Cardiff's Hoddinott Hall

City of Light: New Discoveries, an album released by Cardiff University Symphony Orchestra, has been awarded a 4* review by The Times’ Geoff Brown.

The album features the world premiere recordings of two works by Debussy. The works - Prélude à l'histoire de Tristan and No-Ja-Li ou Le Palais du Silence - were left unfinished when the composer died in 1918.

They have since been completed and orchestrated by Robert Orledge, a leading expert on French music, and were performed in public for the first time in Cardiff in March 2015 as part of the Philharmonia Orchestra's City of Light festival.

Geoff Brown wrote in The Times “The novelty that really made me excited this week was Debussy’s Chinese ballet score No-ja-la — another unfinished work, originally earmarked for a 1914 London stage revue, more recently restored to life in a brilliantly effective reconstruction by Robert Orledge. Its premiere performance by excellent Cardiff University forces is the highlight of City of Light: New Discoveries.

“We know about Debussy’s love of the exotic, but this music’s full-blown oriental atmosphere is still surprising. Interspersed with gamelan imitations, the ballet, set in a palace where speech is forbidden, ends with a rousing chorus of joy. It was exactly my emotion. Other novelties on this lively album, conducted by Mark Eager, include a wartime song cycle by André Jolivet, not, alas, persuasively sung, and a characterful prelude from Debussy’s abandoned Tristan opera. Does he have a forgotten piano concerto knocking about as well?”

Conductor Mark Eager said: “I am delighted by this national recognition for what is a significant achievement. As a team at the School of Music, we have worked hard over the past few years to integrate academia and performance at the highest level and this is testament to the success of that. The students very much deserve this accolade, as they often go above and beyond the requirements of their course to commit to producing CDs like this. I look forward to the continued development of Cardiff University Symphony Orchestra, which is at the forefront of international student performance.”

Of the review, Professor Kenneth Hamilton, Head of School, said: “This is a very impressive achievement by Mark Eager and Cardiff University Symphony Orchestra. It’s rare for student orchestras to release CDs; even rarer to have the chance to make premiere recordings of pieces by a major composer. I’m delighted that our musicians’ energy and talents have been rewarded by this splendid review in The Times.”

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