to The New Penguin English Dictionary (2000) ‘Soliloquy’
comes from Latin solus = ‘alone’ + loqui = ‘to
speak’ and means ‘the act of speaking one’s thoughts aloud while
alone’ or ‘a dramatic device of this kind, used esp to
let the audience know the thoughts and motivations of a character’.
Hamlet’s famous monologue ‘To be or not to be’ is the cardinal
example, but it is a fitting title for this disc, since Kirsty
Abbotts also carries through a series of monologues. Assuredly
she has a band of almost thirty musicians backing her up, but
they seldom interfere with her thoughts and rather form a kind
of audio backdrop to her imagined sonic-stage. To carry the
simile a step further her choice of repertoire and her way of
playing it is often very inward and meditative. Now and then
I felt almost awkward, the way you feel when by accident you
hear someone telling very personal things not intended
for you. Naturally I realized that it was intended for me; it’s
only that when someone lowers the voice somewhat the message
becomes very intimate.
a certain degree this is also the problem with this disc, since
the whole programme, with a few exceptions, is so recessed.
All fourteen ‘songs’ – yes, most of them are songs –
are slow: adagio – andante – largo must be the tempo
markings. Dynamics are limited to mezzo forte and below.
There is little in the way of harmonic spicing; everything is
held within a 19th century romantic and 20th
century easy-listening idiom. Seventy minutes of this eventually
results in a feeling of long-windedness and even lethargy. This
is a pity, since the music-making is on a high level and there
are many good melodies on display. I, who almost invariably
listen through my review discs from beginning to end, decided
after about a quarter of an hour that the best thing I could
do was to spread the listening over several sittings. This is
not to write the disc off; rather to recommend readers, who
like the idea of this particular programme, to do the same thing.
While I am at it, let me add one further opinion, very personal
and not in the least objective: I am not particularly fond of
the sound of brass bands, however well-playing. In Sweden we
have a very old tradition of wind bands too. In almost every
town there is one or more of these bands ho parade and play
on festive occasions. They are full wind orchestras with both
brass and woodwind, which gives a more varied sound-picture.
The high woodwind in particular lighten the general sound. Genuine
brass bands, in spite of the cornets, even the soprano cornets,
are more bass heavy. But, as I have said, this is a very personal
opinion and it shouldn’t discourage readers from listening to
this particular disc.
all of that in the background it is Kirsty Abbotts’ solo playing
that is the main reason for the disc and she certainly plays
impressively. She has beautiful tone. Her legato is impeccable
– obviously she has lungs that hold more air than a whole regiment.
Her tone is absolutely steady, even in long-held pianissimos.
Her phrasing and shading is a joy to hear. Those who want to
have a taster are advised to listen to the opening of Walford
Davies’ God be in my head (tr. 5), where she plays unaccompanied.
are a couple of numbers from the classical orchestral repertoire:
the slow movement of Bruch’s first violin concerto and Rachmaninov’s
Adagio - the beautiful slow movement from his second
symphony, where for all the exquisite phrasing I missed the
strings. From the world of opera come Massenet’s Meditation
and Rodolfo’s Che gelida manina from La bohème.
In the first mentioned there are some brave harmonic modulations
and in the second Ms Abbotts demonstrates her superb breath
control. Phil Coulter’s Home away from home was originally
written for James Galway while both Grace and the title
melody, Soliloquy, are original compositions for cornet
and brass. Very beautiful they are too. Older readers in
particular will recognize I hear you calling me, which
was written by Charles Marshall in 1908; John McCormack recorded
it the same year with the composer at the piano.
concluding number, Norwegian-born Rolf Løvland’s moving You
raise me up with reminiscences of Londonderry Air,
starts almost hesitantly, as it were, at some distance. It then
grows, withdraws, grows again until there is a sudden climax
with bass drum and the full band at fortissimo – the only one
on the disc. Then the music dies away – a striking finale to
inlay is, unfortunately, a hard read since the designer directs
it to the very small target group that prefers white text against
dark background. In my whole life I have met only one person
belonging to that target group. He suffers from a very serious
and very rare visual defect.
from visual defects or not, cornet enthusiasts should definitely
give this disc a chance. Anyone who likes beautiful melodies
beautifully played will find much to enjoy here. But don’t listen
to all of it in one sitting!