Recording of the Month, MusicWeb-International.com
“The performances by the Eikanger-Bjorsvik Musikklag under Andreas Hanson are utterly brilliant – superbly played in all departments.” ClassicsToday.com
Composed over a period of fourteen years, John Pickard's Gaia Symphony and Eden are scored for the standard ‘British’ brass band, with expanded percussion in the case of 'Gaia'. Both works in different ways mirror concerns regarding the world and nature, and their relationship with the human species. Gaia was the Greek goddess of the earth, but is also the name of a theory which proposes that the earth itself is a living organism and that its colonisation by humankind merely marks a certain point in its history. Like once the dinosaurs, we humans will ultimately be wiped out and the damage we are inflicting on the earth will eventually be healed. Pickard’s 65 minute long work started out with the second movement, Wildfire, and the suite Men of Stone which forms the final movement. Several years later two more pieces of the puzzle fell into place, with Tsunami (the opening movement) and Aurora. During the process, it became apparent to the composer that these four deeply related elements formed a single entity. As transitions between them, he wrote three short movements for percussion ensemble, calling them ‘Windows’ – openings in the continuous wall of brass sonority which also give the brass players a few minutes of much-needed recuperation. Only after completing the project did Pickard find that the result was in fact to be regarded as a symphony, to follow on his previous three works in that genre. On the present disc, Gaia is preceded by Eden, which the composer has described as being ‘a summing-up and an extension of some of the principal concerns of the much longer work’. Gaia ends with the emergence of Neolithic man (‘men of stone’), and Eden takes its departure from John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, interpreting the story of Eden as a metaphor for the havoc mankind has inflicted upon the world, exploiting and abusing its resources. The two demanding scores are here performed by Eikanger-Bjørsvik Musikklag from Norway, one of today’s leading brass bands and the first non-British band to claim the European brass band title.