Death and the Maiden by 12 Ensemble
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.