> Edna Michell - Compassion [CF]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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A Tribute to Yehudi Menhin
John TAVERNER: Song of the Angel
Shulamit RAN: Yearning
Chen YI: Romance of Hsiao and Chin
Hans Werner HENZE: Adagio adagio
Yinam LEEF: TFilah
Poul RUDERS: Credo
Somei SATOH: Innocence
Wolfgang RIHM: Cantilena
Iannis XENAKIS: Hunem-Iduhey
Lukas FOSS: Romance
Karel HUSA: Stèle
Betty OLIVERO: Achòt Ketana
György KURTÁG: Ligatura
Philip GLASS: Echorus
Steve REICH: Duet
Edna Michell (violin)
Igor Ardaev (violin)
Nachum Erlich (violin)
Ulf Hoelscher (violin)
Bohuslav Matouek (violin)
Shlomo Mintz (violin)
Allen Ginsburg (narrator)
Michal Kanka (cello)
Ludmilla Peterková (clarinet)
Susan Narucki (soprano)
Patricia Rozario (soprano)
Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra
Lukas Foss (conductor)
Karlsruhe Ensemble
Andreas Weiss (conductor)
Recorded at the Rudolfinum, Dvorak Hall, Prague, 29 August/2 September 1999 and 28/30 August 2000
American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York City, 7 November 2000
Hochschule für Musik, Karlsruhe, Germany 10 February 2001
EMI ANGEL 72435 5 7179 2 4 [79.13]


The impetus for this compilation of fifteen works written especially for Menuhin at the behest of his violinist protegée Edna Michell came around 1990 when she put the question to him on a nocturnal drive between Prague and Vienna, "Why dont we approach composers around the world to write pieces inspired by the theme of universal compassion - an antidote to the chaotic times we live in?" Menuhin, after all, had written I look to music to bind and heal; I think the musician can be a trusted object offering his fellow men solace but also a reminder of human excellence; I believe as strongly as ever that our finite world turns on finite individual efforts to embody an ideal. One wonders how he would have confronted the awful events of 11 September, but, as a man of overwhelmingly deep humanity and spirituality, he no doubt would have found words of solace and compassion. It was Einstein who, having heard the youth Menuhin play in Berlin, said Now I know that God exists. The project took shape, Michell requiring of her composers to provide as much variety as possible in the scoring but with the violin as the pivotal instrument, amounting to fifteen styles with a noble theme behind them. He conducted the pieces in London a month before his death in March 1999, and had hoped to record them, believing that all should be performed together in one programme because "they create a very special ambience". Michell believes the fifteen styles have a common denominator, they communicate directly with the listener through a spacious, meditative, transparent quality, with a sense of timelessness.

There is a fair mix of works here and some well-established, respected composers among them. While the pre-eminence of Henze, Kurtag and Foss predictably produce worthy contributions, Glass equally predictably can do no more than produce yet another exercise in C major. Of the less famous its the women, Chen Yis Romance of Hsiao and Chin, Shulamit Rans Yearning and Betty Oliveros Achòt Ketana which make the best impressions. The pedigree of all composers, known or unknown, has resulted in good music of a high standard which deserves careful listening. Unsurprisingly the performances are dominated by the violin playing of Michell with or without her colleagues (and these too are of the highest calibre with the likes of Hoelscher and Mintz among them). Regrettably excerpts from Allen Ginsburgs evocative poem Wales Visitation are not helped by Glasss far less inspired music which actually intrudes rather than accompanies.

Christopher Fifield


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