Invite to Eternity (song cycle for tenor and string quartet
- four songs)
Love's Voice (song cycle for tenor and piano - four
Acton Burnell for tenor, viola and piano
seven other songs for tenor and piano
Ian Venables was a pupil of Richard Arnell at Trinity College of Music and
John Joubert at Birmingham. In addition to his many vocal settings exploring
the poetry of the British lyric mainstream he has written a piano quintet
and a considerable amount of chamber music.
The first cycle's contribution from the string quartet is written in a language
that is familiar from the works of Shostakovich and Herbert Howells - a strange
juxtaposition you may think but by no means odd here. The songs, which are
settings of John Clare, deal with stillness, and supernally dazzling summers.
Peter Warlock's witchery music from The Curlew must have been an influence
in the case of the second song while Russian Easter Festival brightness
pervades the third song and a coursingly mournful passion concludes the last
The other songs are extremely imaginative and are artfully touching. Venables
has inherited the cloak of C W Orr, Gerald Finzi, Robin Milford and Herbert
Howells in his word setting. The music of At Malvern is all moonlight
and the lapping of cool waters. The Fortunate Isles the first of the
Love's Voice cycle (setting John Addington Symonds) rocks in sleepy
The spate of poetic coups, one after the other, is remarkable and it is pointless
to catalogue them all here. Suffice to say that Venables is a sincere new
voice adding warm lustre to the roll of British lyric song writers. His talent
is not a slender one but one of encouraging span and depth.
In this disc Venables music is helped enormously by the rare voice of Kevin
Mclean-Mair whose steady tenor, appealing throatiness, tawny vocal colouring
and perfect enunciation are out of the all-too rare school of Ian Partridge
and Gerald English.
Full texts and notes. The production, booklet and technical aspects are all
highly professional which has a definite Hyperion look to it - indeed it
would not have been out of place in their catalogue - such is its quality.
The strongest recommendation for a disc that will be a sure-fire winner with
those who love their Moeran, Vaughan Williams, Orr or Butterworth.
The CD is available at £12.00 each from Audiosonic, 6 College Street,
Gloucester. Phone: 01452 302280; fax: 01452 302202
Ian Venables can be contacted at Enigma Publications, Turrall House,
2 Turrall Street, Barbourne, Worcester WR3 8AJ. Phone: 01905 611570
Note: since writing this review I have also heard Venables' Piano Quintet
Op. 27 and the String Quartet Op. 32. Venables proves himself a sturdy melodist
writing in the craggiest romantic vein. In him various voices mix, blend,
synthesise into a distinctive and burningly intense melos. What are these
Well, in the Quintet they are Finzi, Ravel, Rózsa, Howells (his piano
quartet is surely an influence) and Bax (his own 1915 piano quintet - a pinnacle
in the repertoire and a symphony in all but instrumentation). None of this
suffocates Venables' own creativity and character. His ability to coin tunes
all his own and spin them in magical veils of passion and sorrow is undoubted.
The first movement and the finale sometimes display the character of Hungarian
folk music - Kodaly rather than Bartók.
The string quartet on the other hand offers a superficially thorny facade
but glowing beneath it is a work of some passion. Here Ravel (the string
quartet), Bartók and Shostakovich are the voices I detect. When Venables
leads you to a fine tune, as he does in the middle movement, it is no routine
When will someone record him commercially?
I commend this composer very strongly indeed. You will know from my description
whether you will like this composer's music. RB