There are not many full CDs of Dring's works although
her reputation does seem to be building up. Many of you will know of
her mostly from the little piano pieces she produced for the "Graded
Pieces" books, but she was quite a "Renaissance Woman", being an active
cabaret artist and an actor, besides writing and performing her own
As a composer she was a miniaturist, and CDs, so far,
have concentrated on her piano pieces, and songs. Both range from outright
fun stuff, to quite a streak of real seriousness: she was a lot more
than just a cabaret writer.
The raison d'être of this CD would seem
to be primarily to put together the two trios of which the second does
not seem to have been previously recorded (at least, not on CD). The
first of these is what most people who come across her work think of
as typical Dring: lilting Poulenc, perhaps touched by Tailleferre: perky
and prancing outer movements, around a really sweet slow central axis.
Although only three years separate them, the second
is something quite else. Here we have astringent Reizenstein and Arnold:
the thoughtfulness of the naturally wilful? Even her one-time teacher,
VW, just shows through though employing the style he adopted when he
had to write for his unfavourite instrument - the piano !
Anyone who was at the BMS song awards a decade ago
will remember Alison Buchanan's performance of one of Dring's Betjeman
songs: The Song of the Night-Club Proprietress. If you are lucky
enough to have the tape of that superb event (still available to members
from the BMS Hon Treasurer), you may not feel the need for any other
rendering. However, the other four songs are nearly as good. This CD
has real competition here, from Robert Tear and Philip Ledger, on Meridian
CDE 84386. They also offer a wide selection of Dring's more serious
songs (yes she could be quite deep, on occasion even sombre). The male
voice is probably slightly more fitting (and the words a bit easier
to follow) in Business Girls, and in the almost stentorian Undenominational.
However the Proprietress HAS to be a woman! Hollymann gives
it with a heart-tearing sense of cynical loss. The lack of printed text
is an unfortunate problem.
Evidently Dring's real instrument was the piano. The
Colour Suite gives her tremendous sense of lightly jazzy melody
a great outlet. The competition here is from a CD by the Dring pioneer,
Leigh Kaplan, who is a superb jazz pianist (Cambria CD 1084). Her performance
would be hard to touch, and is backed up by a rendering she had arranged
for her CD, played by herself and a "jazz combo" which actually goes
one up on Dring's originals, if that be possible. Lynn gives a gently
swung rendering on the CD being reviewed. For some perverse reason,
she ends with the relaxed "Blue Air" (which was the composer's
penultimate item). I shall always programme my CD player to put it in
the right place, i.e. before "Brown Study"; a minor criticism.
The pieces come over beautifully, as do the three two-minute dances
(not quite so jazzy) which complete this most desirable CD.
Lovely, melodious and memorable: who needs gloom and
doom in their listening?
[This CD review appears here courtesy of the British
Music Society. Ed.]
Angus J Duke
There is a bit of a story behind the ordering of pieces
for the Colour Suite. We discovered that Madeleine had written them
with noparticular order in mind - a matter which was settled by the
publisher. The pianist fell in love with them to the extent that she
played them for relaxation in-between sessions, always ending with Blue
Air. We like to think Madeleine would have done the same.
David Finch, MRC Records