There must be some mysterious metaphysical organism at play which compels English composers to write such potently expressive music for string orchestra. Gustav Holst’s St Paul’s Suite, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, Edward Elgar’s Elegy for Strings, Frank Bridge’s Lament, to select but a few examples. Written as recently as 2021, the Remembrance for Strings by Philip Sawyers, poignantly performed here by the English String Orchestra, without a doubt belongs near or at the top of that list. Based on an evocative, recurring seven note motif that weaves its way through the whole piece as if part and parcel of the orchestral fabric, it stuns the listener when, at the very end, this motif rises to the top and, in one final breath, shines brightly. It was composed at the request of a friend who had recently lost his mother, and certainly captures the sentiment extremely well. In a previous review of this composer’s Symphony No.4 I had remarked that he exhibited an “intuitive control over symphonic development.” The masterfully controlled development of this simple motif certainly reinforces this impression. Classical Music Sentinel – Jean-Yves Duperron —Classical Music Sentinel – Jean-Yves Duperron

“…Woods’ performance, which deserves unanimous praise, highlights this brilliant bond between the two soloists and the musicians of the English String Orchestra, and the numerous contrasts between the flexible and fluid solos and the orchestral texture, delicate and mysterious. It is worth listening carefully to the Remembrance for Strings and enjoying its evocative motif, accompanied by a pale and soft orchestral timbre. It is a work of tonal language that evokes strong feelings of sadness…The last work on the album, Octet, with clear references to Schubert’s work of the same name, consists of four sections without pauses: “Adagio”, “Allegro”, “Andante” and “Allegro”. Some of the interesting aspects of this piece are the contrapuntal writing and interventions of very powerful horn and clarinet solos. Kenneth Woods, a free-spirited and independent conductor, exhibits with rigor and enthusiasm the expressive richness of his orchestra.” –Nuria Serra – Sonogram Magazine

“This is now the sixth volume of orchestral music by Philip Sawyers on the Nimbus Alliance label and the fifth conducted by Kenneth Woods. I reviewed the first release back in October 2010 for this website here and ever since have been an enthusiastic admirer of Sawyers’ work… The relationship with Nimbus Alliance has been a valuable one – a quick look at that list shows that pretty much all of Sawyers’ orchestral works have been recorded by the label and in many cases quite soon after their composition…A feature of all Sawyers’ orchestral scores is his clear sense of instrumental colour and how to write effectively for the forces he deploys – not really that surprising given he spent a quarter century “inside” an orchestra…In the liner Sawyers mentions the “musical and personal connection” between the two players which I wonder is why he has written a work where the two solo parts are so intertwined. Quite unusually for a double concerto work the solo parts, almost without exception, play together – either at the octave, in close harmony or echoing each other’s thematic material. I do not recall hearing any passages when one soloist is in anything but euphonious close conjunction with the other. Likewise the orchestral material supports rather than opposes the solo material. It makes for a very attractive work but one that consciously, it would seem, does not contain as much inherent drama as many Sawyers scores which is perhaps where the sense of neo-classicism comes in.” —Nick Barnard – MusicWeb International