Intricate Web: Music By Liz Johnson


Catalogue No: MSV 77206
EAN/UPC: 809730720628
Artists: , , ,
Release Date: May 2017
Genres: ,
Discs: 2
Total Playing Time: 157:41

Liz Johnson is a British composer with a very special gift and distinctive style, definitely in the avant-garde mold yet not totally alien to ‘traditional-music’ lovers. ‘Intricate Web’ is not only the title of one of the quartets here (there are four numbered String Quartets and two other works for the quartet) but also accurately describes her compositional technique which is complex and detailed, requiring top class performers. It may also describe the way in which the pieces here have been assembled, splitting cello solos and vocal pieces between the quartets to create a web of fascinating sounds and textures.

The Fitzwilliam String Quartet is undoubtedly one of today’s most celebrated ensembles with a fine reputation in the world of new music. Cellist Heather Tuach plays solo in the breathtaking Cello Suite. Soprano Loré Lixenberg deals with the immense difficulty of the writing in the Jo Shapcott Settings and Ronald Woodley provides a magical performance on several clarinets. In all, a superb introduction to a major composer deserving wide recognition. Over 157 minutes of music!

Track Listing

    Liz Johnson:

  1. String Quartet No. 3 “Intricate Web” (10:11)
  2. Cello Suite: Reflections of an Eccentric English Artist − Part 1 (10:11)
  3. Towards the Sea (7:39)
  4. Jo Shapcott Settings – Cabbage Dreams (6:54)
  5. String Quartet No. 1 “Images of Trees” – I. Clefts and fissures of bark (4:53)
  6. String Quartet No. 1 “Images of Trees” – II. Winter branches (4:02)
  7. String Quartet No. 1 “Images of Trees” – III. Leaf (4:56)
  8. Sleep Close (5:58)
  9. Tide purl (4:09)
  10. Cello Suite: Reflections of an Eccentric English Artist – Part 2 (8:23)
  11. Jo Shapcott Settings – Watching Medusa (5:50)
  12. Fantasia Forty-something (4:28)
  13. Clarinet Quintet “Sea-change” (28:16)
  14. String Quartet No. 2 “For Elliott” – I. Part I (3:10)
  15. String Quartet No. 2 “For Elliott” – II. Part 2 (1:56)
  16. String Quartet No. 2 “For Elliott” – III. Part 3 (4:36)
  17. Jo Shapcott Settings – Elephant Woman (2:23)
  18. Jo Shapcott Settings – Pig (2:03)
  19. Cello Suite: Reflections of an Eccentric English Artist – Part 3 (9:28)
  20. String Quartet No. 4 “Sky-burial” (27:17)



Liz Johnson’s music really resonated with me. After more than two and a half hours of it, I was ready to hear even more. Given the top-notch performances of this music, this set will have appeal to those who appreciate contemporary music with considerable stylistic variety. I can, therefore, do no less than give this issue my top recommendation.

” —David DeBoor Canfield
The Chronicle

One minute you’re struggling with some very modern sounds, the next it’s easy on the ear and almost hummable. For the performers it’s probably a lot of fun to play, the intense moments broken up by the playful. [The Cello Suite] is magnificent… excellent sleeve notes. It’s a varied album and challenging in places, but somehow draws the listener in.

” —Jeremy Condliffe
MusicWeb International

This is an exciting album full of interesting music. Liz Johnson’s style is unashamedly modernist, with nods to avant-garde procedures that have been made mainstream over the past few decades. It is fantastic to discover a composer that has not succumbed to writing insipid post-modern music. All the works on these two CDs are approachable, sometimes challenging, musically vibrant, and ultimately satisfying. The liner notes are excellent. The presentation of the booklet is truly artistic.The texts of the all the songs set are given, and are provided with some outstanding art work. A model CD booklet.

” —John France
Tonality Systems

We can so easily miss new stars rising in the firmament of music composition. But for me, unexpectedly, out of the ether (of BBC Radio 3) dropped a 4-minute jewel of a string quartet, and with a title that was hard to forget, Tide Purl by Liz Johnson. It was played by the Fitzwilliam Quartet as a trailer for a concert to launch 2-CD retrospective including all this composer’s work for the string quartet medium. . I was immediately hooked… [this] is a significant body of English music for string quartet.

” —Nigel Morgan