Max Richter‘s new studio album Three Worlds: Music from Woolf Works is drawn from his music to Wayne McGregor’s award-winning Royal Ballet production Woolf Works – inspired by the works of Virginia Woolf.
Just like the ballet, Three Worlds has a three-part structure, built around themes from three of Woolf’s novels: Mrs Dalloway, Orlando and The Waves. Fragments from her letters, diaries and other writings are woven into the work, with spoken words from Gillian Anderson, Sarah Sutcliffe and even Virginia Woolf’s own voice, reading the essay ‘Craftsmanship’ from a 1937 BBC recording.
Three Worlds: Music from Woolf Works features a vast palette of sounds – from solo instrumental and orchestral episodes, to electronic textures and music for wordless soprano. It opens with the chime of Big Ben, whose unmistakable sound can still be heard above the noise of London traffic from the distance of Gordon Square in Bloomsbury, where Virginia Woolf lived before her marriage to Leonard Woolf.
Woolf’s suicide note, her heart-rending farewell letter to her husband, read by Gillian Anderson, sets the contemplative atmosphere for ‘Tuesday’, the album’s final and longest track. The piece develops from the sound of breaking waves into a plaintive solo melody, constantly repeated yet ever-changing, and grows to become a dream-like meditation on life and death.