Death and the Maiden

12 Ensemble

Death and the Maiden
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Death and the Maiden

12 Ensemble

With their own arrangement of Schubert’s iconic string quartet at its heart, the record features a brand new commission from newly-appointed ROH Composer in Residence Oliver Leith, alongside a poignant work by Tavener and a tribute to the ensemble’s time in Iceland with a heart-felt arrangement of a song by Sigur Rós.

12 Ensemble recently joined Elena Tonra (vocalist/guitarist of Daughter) for a unique, reimagined performance of her solo record as Ex:Re at Kings Place in London and in March 2020 12 Ensemble return to Kings Place for Four Seasons Recomposed, which is part of a specially curated programme of works by Max Richter.

Review

Fans of the Australian Chamber Orchestra will instantly recognise the oeuvre of 12 Ensemble. They are a string orchestra that performs as a chamber ensemble, with no conductor. This brings a heightened sense of musicality to their performances.

This second album is a technicolour blend of traditional classical works, twentieth and twenty-first century repertoire, making for a perfect contemplative accompaniment to these times. There is some drama to get your blood going in their arrangement of the Schubert String Quartet, Death and the Maiden, alongside a new commission by Oliver Leith. Honey Siren is a three movement work that encapsulates Leith’s ability to weave the mundane into more cerebral musical ideas.

This musically challenging work is the perfect opportunity for 12 Ensemble to show their mettle in their controlled use of pitch, silence and tension. However one of the most delightful moments comes at the end of the album in an arrangement of a Sigur Rós song, ‘Fljótavík’. Touching and heartfelt – a tribute to the ensemble’s time in Iceland – I now want them to do an entire album of these arrangements and currently have this song on repeat.


Kate Rockstrom is a friend of Readings.

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