Noted as a "maximalist" for his densely textured, intricately constructed serial works, Brian Ferneyhough is a challenging composer by any standard, and his uncompromising and intensely demanding scores are some of the most original of the late avant-garde. In such complicated chamber works as Funérailles I (1969-1977) and Funérailles II (1969-1980), both versions for seven strings and harp, Ferneyhough presents thickets of notes and short gestures that are tightly organized, but so abrupt and pointillistic that the lay listener may mistake them as random fragments, not at all as recurring ideas. Similarly, in the rhythmically layered Bone Alphabet for percussion (1991) and the angular Unsichtbare Farben (Invisible Colors) for solo violin (1999), the ear can only take in the surfaces of the music, having no way to grasp the underlying patterns that are employed. Yet it would be a mistake to think these pieces are just cerebral exercises, since Ferneyhough is too good a composer to pass off intellectual doodles as serious work. While there are designs in these pieces only a theoretician may comprehend and abrasive sonorities only a die-hard modernist may love, there are points of tension and release that are easily perceived, and textures and timbres that a prepared listener may appreciate without too much strain.
Alchemia Garden: the album’s wonderful title, creates an enchanting, ambiguous effect. Lucas Niggli relates the organic, biological and growing, which develops on its own and is cultivated and maintained in the form of the garden, to the metamorphosis of material, the scientific search for something unknown which historically has been seen to generate something new.
PentaTone's live recording of John Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles is billed as the world premiere recording, though it was preceded by the 1991 video recording of the Metropolitan Opera's production, which was conducted by James Levine and starred Teresa Stratas. Even so, this 2016 audiophile presentation of the LA Opera production, conducted by James Conlon, is a major event for opera lovers, especially since the Met's recording is difficult to find and performances of The Ghosts of Versailles are rare.