'...overflowing of dreams into real life...' (Gérard de Nerval)
The raison d'être of this unusual disc is implied
in the title: the feminine in poetry and music - celebrating particularly
the work of the Swiss poet and painter Marguerite Burnat-Provins (1872-
1952) - the music (with the exception of that of Elaine Hugh-Jones)
by her European contemporaries.
The principal interest for listeners will however be
in the cycle of eight de la Mare settings by the London-born pianist
and composer Elaine Hugh-Jones (b.1927).
There are however further implications in the title
of the CD - the disc is dedicated to Elaine Hugh Jones by the artistes
who have, for a number of years, specialised in performing less familiar
work by women composers -although this recital is shared (since settings
of the poet Burnat-Provins) by such distinguished names as Jacques Dalcroze,
Ladmirault, as well as Alma Mahler-Schindler.
This may seem a somewhat diverse company, yet there
is an imaginative thematic thread running throughout that derives undoubtedly
from a Gallic sensitivity that has something of the symbolist spirit.
This ranges from the unseen presences in de la Mare - for instance the
mysterious lines from "Echo":
Eyes in the green, in the shade
In the motionless brake,
Voices that said what I said,
For mockery's sake.
to the 'Voiles de mortes/cherchant une forme perdue'
of Burnat-Provins and Hartleben's "susser traum"
Elaine Hugh-Jones studied with Lennox Berkeley and
also shares something of that French element in her own ancestry with
the Huguenot in de la Mare. The first song 'Winter' with its 'rayless
sun' evokes that half-real world of twilight - and in this, as in her
setting of the ubiquitous 'Silver', one is conscious of Debussy: while
there is fantasy in the sinister witchery of 'The Ride by Nights', and
in 'The Witch Hare' (does not legend loom large here?) the unseen presences
in de la Mare's verse are by contrast pale shades - 'ghosts linger in
the darkening air' - less real than the animal presences that seem to
hold watch. This is truly a magical cycle.
As in the de la Mare, 'one world trembling on the brink
of another' ( * ) colours the other songs and for a music lover these
provide a rich added bonus, full of a kind of decadent sensual beauty.
There are enchanting lyrical moments in the music of the Breton, Ladmirault
- the rhapsodic Ferrari (whose ecstatic climax 'tombe, tombe ma vie
aux mains de mon amour' is ravishing) and the folk-like Dalcroze (recalling
the nursery world of Inghelbrecht). Carl Ehrenberg's German origins
at 'exprimer notre amour' are quite transfigured by the encompassing
There. are also five superb lieder by Alma Mahler,
whose legendary love affairs have attracted more attention than her
music - when she married Mahler he obliged her to give up writing her
music to give more attention to her husband - yet the beauty of these
lieder cry out for a fuller survey of her few songs (reputedly just
over one hundred written, though only a very few survive).
This is a strangely beautiful and compelling recording.
I would recommend it, not only for the exquisite settings of the de
la Mare, nor even solely for the rich experience of the little known
music of Alma Mahler - but even just for the sheer delight in music
making of a quality all too rare and for the lovely artistry in the
sleeve, with its Pandora, engarlanded in greenery as lush as the music
on this disc.
(*) H.C. Duffin 'Walter de la Mare' Sidgwick &
Jackson 1949. Theresa Whistler, in her 'Imagination of the Heart', also
wrote 'children feel this world primarily as a projection of another'.
Available in UK from Oakstone Classics (Music Shop) Reindeer Court,
Worcester Phone: ( 01905 619629
Disques VDE-Gallo Ale 31
CH-1000 Lausanne 9