Simon Holt - a table of noises, St Vitus in the kettle, witness to a snow miracle | NMC Recordings NMCD218

Simon Holt - a table of noises, St Vitus in the kettle, witness to a snow miracle


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Label: NMC Recordings

Cat No: NMCD218

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 1

Genre: Orchestral

Release Date: 24th March 2017



Colin Currie (percussion)
Chloe Hanslip (violin)
Halle Orchestra


Nicholas Collon


Holt, Simon

St Vitus in the kettle
a table of noises (percussion concerto)
witness a snow miracle (violin concerto)


Colin Currie (percussion)
Chloe Hanslip (violin)
Halle Orchestra


Nicholas Collon


This fourth, full-length album of music by multi award-winning composer Simon Holt on NMC showcases his highly narrative orchestral compositions. His violin concerto witness to a snow miracle – here performed by the prodigiously talented Chloë Hanslip – depicts the story of the life, and particularly gruesome death, of St Eulalia of Merida. From the initial, frenzied cadenza in the solo violin we get a sense of the torment and horror the saint suffered at the hands of the Romans: her flesh torn with hooks, flames applied to the wounds, and her body buried in hot coals. A blanket of snow fell on her ashes, at which point she was declared a saint.

Holt's other award-winning concerto on this album is a much more upbeat and quirky affair. Written for and performed on this recording by one of the world's finest percussionists, Colin Currie, a table of noises introduces us to Holt's taxidermist great uncle Ashworth, a kind of maverick scientist-cum collector. Currie says "this percussion concerto exuberantly tears up the manual on how to approach the medium and I am thrilled with the idiosyncratic, adventurous results". The soloist is seated on a cajón (a box-shaped instrument often used in flamenco), and apart from the xylophone and glockenspiel, all the other instruments are laid out on a table in front of the soloist; hence the title. Each brief movement has a descriptive title, e.g. a drawer full of eyes (discovered by Holt’s mother in Ash’s bedroom tallboy) and Skennin’ Mary (a neighbour with a glass eye that spun when she became angry) and is linked by five “ghost” orchestral interludes.

The short, dazzling, orchestral work St Vitus in the kettle was commissioned by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales during Holt's tenure as Composer-in-Association (2008-2014). The grisly end for this saint was a cauldron of boiling hot lead!


... quick-witted and haunting. Colin Currie is the soloist in this affectionate and entertaining work, while Nicholas Collon conducts the Hallé ...
Financial Times 31 March 2017
Though the percussion concerto A Table of Noises opens this exceptional collection, and provides its title, there’s another equally impressive concerto here. Witness to a Snow Miracle, for violin and orchestra, is not only one of Simon Holt’s finest achievements to date, but one of the most memorable British orchestral scores of the last 30 years. Without ever being explicitly programmatic, its seven short movements are based on the life and death of St Eulalia, Chloë Hanslip’s solo violin seems to veer between portraying the child saint herself and being an onlooker at her gruesome martyrdom.

In its own typically idiosyncratic way, the percussion work is equally haunting. Composed for Colin Currie, and inspired by Holt’s memories of a great uncle who was a one-legged taxidermist, it limits the soloist to the instruments he can place on a table, yet generates an astonishing variety of pitched and unpitched textures that punctuate the orchestra’s riffs and manic clockworks.  Andrew Clements
The Guardian 23 March 2017

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