BBC Music Magazine

Eric Coates

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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 ★★★★★

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 ??  ?? Homesick heroine: Anna Lucia Richter shines in Schubert
Homesick heroine: Anna Lucia Richter shines in Schubert
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