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The Book of Ingenious Devices

Yet I would happily return to the world premiere of Philip Cashian’s Piano Concerto The Book of Ingenious Devices, named after an illustrated compendium of mechnical contraptions compiled in 1st century Iraq. Written expressly for it’s nimble soloist, Huw Watkins, it began clattering at high speed, like an automaton, but other textures soon swooped in, inserting plenty of fantasy and wit into the 20-minute span. Some figurations suggested birds escaped from Messien’s Catalogue D’oiseaux. Elsewhere, Watkins turned pensive and tender stroking the notes against the subtlest whispers and groans from Cashian’s orchestral palette, deployed with considerable flair. This was mesmerising music.

Geoff Brown, The Times, 20/06/18

Cashian’s Book in this first-rate premiere is a perfectly proportioned and dovetailed piece that is consistently inventive and ear-grabbing, and will certainly repay attention.

Colin Anderson, Classical Music Source, June 2018


In this respect, Vox Balanae proved an excellent partner to a new trio for piano, clarinet and cello by Philip Cashian. Entitled Aquila after the swooping eagle found in John Flamsteed's 1729 Atlas Coelestis, its merits do not really derive from any imitation of eagles actual or imagined (perhaps luckily, given that Flamsteed's eagle resembles a grouse). Instead, it thrives on a thrilling combination of precariously balanced mechanical processes, an intuitive chamber dynamic, and occasional fleeting but hard-won moments of rhapsody. Like much of Cashian's music it makes extreme demands on its players, but the Chroma ensemble were equal to them. Particularly impressive, both in Aquila and the earlier Caprichos, was the way the players skated so lightly on Cashian's many-layered syncopations, allowing the music to exude a tantalising playfulness. It leaves you feeling exhilarated.

Guy Dammann, The Guardian, 8/11/10


They also impressed in their PLG commission, Philip Cashian's 'Samain', a ghostly and surreal Leonora Carrington painting dynamically rendered in four short movements.

Geoff Brown, The Times, 16/01/12

the world's turning

Philip Cashian's the world's turning, from which the concert derived it's name, is pure rhythm - the id of music, unhampered by any other factor, running wild through our imaginations. Repeated rhythmic figures, in various instrumental groupings, overlaid each other to create a vast network of pure measured time - exciting and invigorating.

Robert Harris, The Globe and Mail (Toronto), 30/01/15

Settala's Machine

... and Philip Cashian's engaging Settala's Machine, for ten wind instruments, given by the New London Chamber Ensemble. This followed three arrangements by him, Sally Beamish and Martin Butler of mechanistic Mozart pieces respectively for musical clock, glass harmonica and mechanical organ and offered itself as an original 'musical machine' In the way it intercuts sputtering ticking ostinati with sinuos melody, it evokes the approach of Harrison Birtwistle, but a Birtwistle better behaved than usual. Music at its visceral foundation.

Paul Driver, The Sunday Times, 13/07/14 

Three Pieces

I've never heard a Cashian piece that did not spring to individual, fetching life. More please!

David Murray, Financial Times, 2/6/04

Three Pieces are refreshingly colourful and inventive, reminding us anew that Cashian is a composer of abundant imagination and elegance.

Paul Conway, Musical Times, October 2004

Three Pieces all display Cashian’s trademark energy and dynamism, inventively playing with form and texture as if for no other reason than sheer exhilaration.

Anthony Holden, The Observer, 6/6/04

Cashian's piece was a deftly crafted three-movement work full of beguiling sounds, particularly in the drowsy cello-and-vibraphone central movement.

Ivan Hewett, The Daily Telegraph, 3/6/04


The afternoon ended with the US premiere of British composer Philip Cashian’s Three Pieces for chamber orchestra (2004). Scored for two flutes, oboe, two clarinets, bassoon, horn, trumpet, harp, piano, two percussionists and nine string players, the colorful suite takes its inspiration, in turn, from a Spanish Civil War novel, a poem by Sylvia Plath, and a painting by Jean Dubuffet.Cashian, who was present, described “Scenes from Burgos” as the impressions of an observer wandering around drunk during Carnival in that northern Spanish city, “a series of postcards without transitions.” “The Silver Surface of the Night” was a mini-cello concerto nimbly played by Alex Baker assisted by vibraphonists Daniel King and Michael Mazzullo, who delivered Cashian’s own take on hocket. “The Traveler without a Compass” was, Cashian said, like a machine that layered music on top of each other in different meters.Cashian’s energetic and ingenious music received finely-honed readings from Timothy Weiss and the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, closing out its series of five concerts at the Museum this season with a flourish. There will be more to look forward to next season.

  Daniel Hathaway, Cleveland Classical, 16/04/15



Philip Cashian's Caprichos is named for Goya's aquatint prints observing the folly of Spanish society in the 18th century; the music's sharply etched lines are a dark and troubled commentary on the present, with only the serene, high violin line offering any hope.

Rhian Evans, The Guardian, 8/3/12

Philip Cashian's Caprichos extensively explored instrumental colours and textures to create a vivid sound world that grabbed one's attention from the start and never let go.

David Hart, Birmingham Post, 9/3/12

Concerto for cello and strings

The next challenge for the cellist: negotiating a maze. Cashian's single-movement, 20 minute Concerto is made up of sections that sometimes interconnect and other times sit side by side, turning on a dime. Weiss and CME maintain a precise sense of ensemble amidst unrelenting rhythms littered with tiny rests, and Adkins adds spice with his nuances of articulation, and later timbre. He holds you captive for everyone of the 33 seconds he spends sustaining a single note near the end.

Jarrett Hoffman,, 5/12/17


Dark Inventions CD

His music courses with energy, driven along on high-octane rhythmic invention: it’s constantly diverting, constantly surprising.

Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 21/4/00

Clearly one of the most talented and imaginative composers of his generation.

Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post, 12/4/00

Dark Inventions, the latest addition to NMC's invaluable series of contemporary British composers, is enthralling from first note to last.

…this CD easily holds the attention played straight through, and it will be one to come back to.

Peter Grahame-Wolfe, New Music Review, 2/3/00

Black Venus

Philip Cashian's Black Venus, an arresting series of four miniatures suggestive of Charles Baudelaire's Creole mistress performing an exotic dance (the title comes from Angela Carter's short story of the same name), is a work of gripping intensity and pictorial bravado.

International Record Review, 22/1/09


Between the two symphonies came an exuberant performance of Philip Cashian's bracing and imaginative triptych, Tableaux. This work was commissioned by the Northern Sinfonia for the 2003 Proms. With its bright zigzags of flying figures, it's quasi-Sibelian centrepiece and the finale, it's bristling energy makes it a real pleasure to encounter once more.

Hilary Finch, The Times. 30/4/12

There was the world premiere of Philip Cashian's Tableaux, an extraordinary 14 minutes of fast music that soars and sweeps towards its destination.

Stephen Pettitt, The Evening Standard. 25/7/03

The late-night Prom brought the season’s first premiere. If they are all as pungent as Tableaux by Philip Cashian it will be a vintage year. Not quite 15 minutes long, this orchestral showpiece was pure energy from start to finish. It sprang from a jagged, frenetic duet for the violins, and this tangled skein of angular counterpoint proved prophetic of the whole piece, though sometimes it was offset by terse repeated chords that seemed to march to a different drum altogether.

What most impressed, however, was the needle-sharp clarity of both the orchestration and the musical thinking. And a superbly prepared performance by the Northern Sinfonia, directed by Thomas Zehetmair, gave this ferociously demanding score the best possible airing.

Richard Morrison,The Times. 23/7/03

Philip Cashian’s Tableaux is receiving its first performance. 40 this year, Cashian has long evinced real flair when working with ensembles, and transfers naturally to the enlarged classical orchestra. From initial coruscating violin writing, a momentum is established which takes a welter of detail in its stride; passing through a more restrained take on ideas in the atmospheric central section, before Sibelian strings launch a final review of material – coming full circle on a curve of rising energy. A ’concerto for chamber orchestra’ dispatched with conviction by the Northern Sinfonia, and which deserves investigation by similarly-constituted groups.

Richard Whitehouse, The Classical Source, July 2003

The late Prom by Gateshead's Northern Sinfonia on Monday included this season's first premiere: Tableaux, by Philip Cashian. Its three short movements share an irresistible sense of forward momentum, whether in the ebulliently frenetic choruses of violins at the start or the itchy repeated notes of the second movement. Cashian evolves his ideas skilfully, and it's an effective orchestral showpiece.

Erica Jeal, The Guardian, 23/7/03

Songs from a Still World

Philip Cashian’s Songs from a Still World is a simple but perfectly formed score that takes the form of a long arch, loudest and busiest at its apex. It explores the mellow, ethereal side of the saxophone.

John Allison The Times, 10/1/01

Chamber Concerto

Philip Cashian's Chamber Concerto, originally written for the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (and here receiving its London premiere), was fast and furious, successfully stitched together from many short sections, full of striking motifs purposefully directed. There was a lot of groovy chorusing of instruments in parallel and some nice dusky harmonies. It ended like slow irregular breathing. A strong close to the concert.

Adrian Jack, The Independent, 22/2/97

Philip Cashian's Chamber Concerto ran helter-skelter through a set of sharply characterised miniatures before fading away in frozen calm - an effective end, brilliantly played, which held the audience rapt.

Ivan Hewett, The Daily Telegraph, 14/12/04


Mr. Sachs began with Philip Cashian's changeable score "Skein" (2005). Angular lines are painted in warm hues, and dramatic scoring touches-most notably, a quiet, introspective passage punctuated with bursts of combined flute and trumpet timbres-keep the proceedings fresh and surprising. The ensemble responded beautifully to Mr. Cashian's continually shifting demands.

Allan Kozinn, The New York Times, 29/9/10

Scored for 10 instruments, Philip Cashian's Skein was, as its title suggests, woven from a tangle of different ideas. Teeming with prominent solos, especially for viola, the piece was effortlessly agile, with wispy textures and brimming with flights of fantasy. A sizzle-cymbal crash left to vibrate into the night provided a suitably enigmatic ending for this elusive work.

Paul Conway, The Independent, 17/2/06

Philip Cashian's Skein does what its title suggests, joining up a series of sharply contrasting episodes in which linear ideas predominate.…the music has a coherence and continuity that makes it lucidly engaging.

Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 15/2/06

The Cumnor Affair

Cashian's skill is to make the true mystery that of the human heart. His score, for Chroma's tiny ensemble of seven players, conducted by Tim Murray, is an electrocardiogram of Dudley's heart, torn between a wife he loves and a Queen he adores.

Counterpointing his own long lines, first of ennui, then of impassioned mourning, is a sinister spooking of percussion, and a tense cross-hatching of violin, cello, flute and clarinet, as the courtiers William Cecil and Sir Francis Walsingham play out their own equally dark and complex loyalties.

The drama is all in the music, and in its spare, strong characterisations of the young wife herself, sung sweetly by Amy Carson; of a highly-strung Dudley, whose writing tests the tenor Andrew Rees to his limits; and of the engaging cameos of Phyllis Cannan as the servant Catherine, Robert Gildon as Cecil, and Roderick Earle as a powerfully sung, brooding Walsingham.

Hilary Finch, The Times, 12/11/08

….this pacey one-acter is something of which the company can be proud.

Erica Jeal, The Guardian, 13/11/08

Opening of the House

The Sinfonietta opened on Friday with a special commission: Philip Cashian's Opening of the House. From the gallery, a small choir intoned disembodied syllables alongside recorded fragments from a King's Cross coal seller describing his rounds. This made a local soundscape through which the playing of the Sinfonietta slowly emerged. An effective metaphor for arrival

Erica Jeal, The Times, 8/10/08

The London Sinfonietta consecrated their brand-new home with a series of concerts showcasing the hall's rich possibilities when it comes to contemporary music. A commissioned work by Philip Cashian, entitled Opening of the House, set the tone effectively... it sounded great in this space.

Tristram Jakob-Hoff, The Guardian, 06/10/08

Piano Concerto

Cashian's brand new Piano Concerto may have been formally quite conventional - three movements, the opening one discursive and confrontational, the second slow and mostly a piano solo, and the finale hectic and propulsive - but filled that frame with striking ideas, satisfyingly varied piano writing (incisively delivered by soloist Sarah Nicolls) and some equally characterful ensemble writing.

Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 15/5/06

String Quartet No.1

…their repertory included the agile, imaginative and light-filled First String Quartet of the highly gifted British composer Philip Cashian.

Paul Driver, The New York Times, 12/4/01


among the bleached stars and suns

Philip Cashian's quintet was a haunting elegy, with its bass flute solos and offstage horn.

Tom Service, The Guardian, 13/1/03

The second concert ushered in the Zephyr Ensemble, a wind quintet with flair and verve. They dealt deftly with Philip Cashian’s enthralling amid the bleached stars and suns, flautist Emma-Louise Hible’s wonderful bass flute’s long, introspective solo line adding textural breadth to the moaning offstage horn, throaty clarinet and oboe.

Matthew Connolly, The Times, 14/1/03

Four Inventions

….and Four Inventions by Philip Cashian, expressive, virtuosic essays by a rewardingly individual composer.

Fiona Maddox, The Observer, 25/6/00

The House of Night CD is a collection of his achievements that proclaims his mastery, and for me establishes him as a voice I must not miss...the imagination and variety of invention are unceasing...terrific stuff

Stephen Plaistow, Gramophone, December 2013

Five fine works by this inventive composer make a rich sequence.

Paul Driver, Sunday Times, 20/10/13

It's a genuine pleasure to see a collection of Philip Cashian's music gathered together on disc. His fast-paced style is an uncompromising reflection of the modern world, yet at the same time his sense of detail - both explicit and implied - and figuration are never overcome.

Roger Thomas, International Record Review, December 2013

The re-written finale is thrilling: a driving piano part with which the instruments battle to keep up. This is gloriously fast music, hardly pausing for breath, full of child-like energy. Owing a debt perhaps to Stravinsky and Frank Zappa, this is music with 'can-do' attitude.

Bernard Hughes, Tempo magazine, April 2014

Boldy kinetic music. The piano concerto is dynamic and arresting.

La Folia

...attractive and effective... a composer to be watched...

American Record Guide

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