Eric Coates

BBC Music Magazine - - Reviews -

Songs

Kathryn Rudge (mezzo-so­prano), Christo­pher Glynn (pi­ano)

Somm Record­ings SOMMCD 0192 66:05 mins

Nel­lie Melba, Joan ★am­mond, John Mccor­mack – once upon a time the songs of Eric Coates were sung and recorded by the world’s most prom­i­nent artists. Nowa­days they are roundly ne­glected, which is one rea­son why this in­ter­est­ing new an­thol­ogy is wel­come.

An­other is the warm, em­pa­thetic ad­vo­cacy of Liver­pudlian singer Kathryn Rudge. ★er creamy, gen­er­ous mezzo-so­prano af­fec­tion­ately cos­sets the lan­guorous melody of ‘In a Sleepy La­goon’ (the theme tune of Radio 4’s Desert Is­land Discs, with words), and ca­resses the del­i­cate ‘Bird

Songs at Even­tide’. In songs which seem per­ilously sen­ti­men­tal to the

modern ear – ‘The Fairy Tales of Ire­land’ and ‘The Green ★ills of Som­er­set’ are two – Rudge is deft at di­al­ing back the whimsy, and dis­till­ing gen­uine emotion. ★er ex­cel­lent dic­tion is par­tic­u­larly use­ful in ‘Reuben Ranzo’, a jaunty story-song whose comic turns of fate are colour­fully painted. The Four Old English Songs have texts by Shake­speare, and show Coates to be con­sid­er­ably more than a writer of facile par­lour melodies. Rudge’s vi­brant in­ter­pre­ta­tion makes a per­sua­sive case for them, and Christo­pher Glynn’s fluid ac­com­pa­ni­ment is a model of sup­port­ive sen­si­tiv­ity.

Texts are printed in the book­let, and Jeremy Dib­ble’s au­thor­i­ta­tive es­say sets the songs in con­text. A valu­able is­sue. Terry Blain PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★★

RECORD­ING ★★★★

Pur­cell

The Cares of Lovers

Rowan Pierce (so­prano), Wil­liam Carter (the­o­rbo); The Academy of An­cient Mu­sic/richard Egarr

Linn CKD592 59:47 mins

This is so­prano Rowan Pierce’s de­but solo al­bum. She’s proven her met­tle to live au­di­ences as the win­ner of solo com­pe­ti­tions, as a soloist in top-rank­ing Early Mu­sic projects, as a Lieder singer, and as a prin­ci­pal in small, pol­ished opera pro­duc­tions. For her solo record­ing launch she’s cho­sen Pur­cell the­atre songs, with the stripped-back ac­com­pa­ni­ment of Richard Egarr on harp­si­chord and Wil­liam Carter on plucked strings.

Pierce’s voice is de­li­cious: clear, strong, sup­ple, with sparkling top notes and a warm, tex­tured mid­dle and low regis­ter. She’s mis­tress of her words, bend­ing vow­els and clip­ping con­so­nants to max­imise rhetoric, whether des­per­ate urg­ings or whis­pered prom­ises. Shad­ow­ing her, and adding their own ideas, are Egarr and Carter. Un­der their fin­gers, even pedes­trian con­tinuo fig­u­ra­tion can take on bril­liant, un­ex­pected forms. To this mix Carter brings the oc­ca­sional wire­strung in­stru­ment, edg­ing his lines with a pun­gent twang. Egarr and Carter’s duelling in two grounds by Pur­cell is rav­ish­ing.

Pierce doesn’t par­take of her fel­low-mu­si­cians’ dar­ing. Pur­cell wrote for the Restora­tion play­house, where tu­mult reigned, but Pierce tends to sani­tise mo­ments of ex­cess. Dra­mat­i­cally her tough­est mu­sic is ‘Mad Bess’, a 12-sec­tion num­ber de­pict­ing a home­less woman driven in­sane by her beloved’s death. Gnash­ing dis­so­nances, met­ric jolts, bizarre melodic jux­ta­po­si­tions – these rup­tures don’t seem to reach Pierce, although she does de­liver im­pact­ful for­tis­si­mos. An­other strange ab­sence is or­na­men­ta­tion. We get big dol­lops of dec­o­ra­tion from the in­stru­men­tal­ists but not the singer, who sails along, oddly dis­en­gaged from their an­tics. Pierce is a poised and charm­ing artist; we wait for her mu­si­cal in­ven­tion to soar free. Berta Jon­cus PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★

RECORD­ING ★★★★

Schu­bert

Das Heimweh; Ge­sange Aus ‘Wil­helm Meis­ter’; Der Hirt auf dem Felsen; Ave Maria, etc Anna Lu­cia Richter (so­prano), Matthias Schorn (clar­inet), Gerold Hu­ber (pi­ano)

Pen­ta­tone PTC 5186722 (hy­brid CD/ SACD) 80:58 mins

Ex­cit­ing changes may be grad­u­ally tak­ing place in the con­ser­va­tive world of 19th-cen­tury Ger­man song per­for­mance, as this out­stand­ing recital may sug­gest. Anna Lu­cia Richter is still early in her ca­reer, yet demon­strates as­ton­ish­ing ver­sa­til­ity, in­sight and in­tel­li­gence in this pro­gramme of Schu­bert songs. Gerold ★uber’s ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence as an ac­com­pa­nist is re­vealed as he draws the ten­der­est sounds from his pi­ano with­out ever de­scend­ing into mawk­ish ex­ag­ger­a­tion. Both artists know how to stretch time, bear­ing us ex­pertly us on the ebb and flow of Schu­bert’s mu­sic.

The pro­gramme, called Heimweh (home­sick­ness), draws to­gether a thought­ful and mov­ing se­lec­tion of songs, some ex­tremely well­known (Schu­bert’s ‘Ave Maria’, for in­stance) and oth­ers rarely heard (the melo­drama ‘Ab­schied von der Erde’ and the ex­tended bal­lad ‘Vi­ola’). While the over­all mood is un­der­stand­ably bleak, Richter and ★uber nev­er­the­less of­fer con­sid­er­able va­ri­ety, es­pe­cially of colour. The three songs of the child Mignon, from Goethe’s Faust, are ren­dered with a trans­par­ently white sound. The gravedig­ger’s song of home­sick­ness ‘Toten­gräbers ★eimweh’ – al­most in­evitably sung by a man nowa­days – shows im­pres­sive heft and depth in the lower reaches of both the voice and pi­ano. Richter ren­ders the sin­is­ter necrophil­iac bal­lad ‘Der Zw­erg’ with a nasal, eerie bite in her sound that is un­nerv­ing and thrilling. I par­tic­u­larly loved the taste­ful ornaments in ‘An den Mond’, which are his­tor­i­cally jus­ti­fied and won­der­fully ap­pro­pri­ate, es­pe­cially in strophic songs – we could do with more of this. I’m look­ing for­ward to their next re­lease. Natasha Lo­ges PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★★★ RECORD­ING ★★★★★

Tav­erner

Missa Glo­ria tibi trini­tas

Con­tra­punc­tus; Choir of The Queen’s Col­lege, Ox­ford/owen Rees

Signum Clas­sics SIGCD 570 76:18 mins This disc weighs the dif­fer­ent sides of Tudor com­poser John Tav­erner, from the tow­er­ing, com­plex and of­ten vir­tu­osic Glo­ria tibi trini­tas Mass to the terse and solemn set­ting of the Ave Maria – per­formed here as Car­di­nal Wolsey pre­scribed, with the chim­ing of a church bell. Both works were pos­si­bly writ­ten for the col­le­giate foun­da­tion Wolsey cre­ated: Car­di­nal Col­lege, Ox­ford (now Christ Church), where Tav­erner was mas­ter of the cho­ris­ters. To paint the com­poser’s two faces, schol­ardi­rec­tor Owen Rees brings to­gether both of his crack en­sem­bles: the vo­cal con­sort Con­tra­pun­tus and the Choir of The Queen’s Col­lege, Ox­ford. The 40-strong col­lec­tive recre­ates the lav­ish sound that Tav­erner him­self might have pre­ferred for spe­cial feast days. Con­trast­ing the solo voices of Con­tra­pun­tus with the full-bod­ied choral sound, Rees sculpts the mu­si­cal lines in low and high re­lief: del­i­cately etched pas­sages – exquisitel­y sung by the solo voices of Con­tra­pun­tus – give way to the sonorous, of­ten seraphic, sound of the full en­sem­ble. These dra­matic con­trasts make the Trin­ity Sun­day Mass one of the mas­ter­pieces of Tudor polyphony, and also char­ac­terise the ju­bi­lant Marian an­tiphon Gaude pluri­mum, to which Rees brings just the right bal­ance of grace and vigour.

The fe­male voices of Queen’s Col­lege choir sound aptly boy­ish, re­flect­ing the orig­i­nal all-male per­form­ing re­sources, and their tim­bre is gen­er­ally ra­di­ant (though at more strato­spheric mo­ments, the so­pra­nos tend to force their voices, sour­ing the pitch). The record­ing is fault­lessly en­gi­neered: lu­cid and vividly present. Kate Bolton-por­ci­atti PER­FOR­MANCE ★★★★ RECORD­ING ★★★★★

Home­sick hero­ine: Anna Lu­cia Richter shines in Schu­bert

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