Cantus Iambeus by Sir Harrison Birtwisle

Performed by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group at CBSO Centre.



Geoffrey Paterson Conductor

Anthony Robb Flute

Melinda Maxwell Oboe

Mark O'Brien Clarinet

Margaret Cookhorn Bassoon


Mark Vines Horn

Ryan Linkham Trumpet

Anthony Howe Trombone


Julian Warburton Percussion


Rosanna Rolton Harp

John Reid Piano


Zöe Beyers Violin 1

Colette Overdijk Violin 2

Adam Römer Viola

Ulrich Heinen Cello

Julian Atkinson Double bass


Cantus Iambeus (2004) might at first appear to be a latter-day continuation of the famous Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum of 1977–78 with almost identical instrumentation, (the Carmen for an ensemble of fourteen players and the Cantus for thirteen) and comparable duration. But even at a first hearing, every detail of the music makes it clear how much Birtwistle’s style has evolved. The different layers of the texture are much more refined and more buoyant and use richer registers. They interact with less extreme contrasts. At the same time they are completely unified by the use of iambic rhythm, acknowledged by Birtwistle in the invented Latin word in the title. They are unified, moreover, in a single, linear form, with the tempo gradually slowing from the chord clusters at the beginning to the single interval at the end.

© Stephan Meier