This is the third review of this disc to appear
here. You are referred to the other two reviews for more specific
details and personal insights.
Todd's innate allegiance to tonality is well
grasped. It has been there from the very beginning. You can hear
it in his 1993 opera Isambard Kingdom Brunel which was
premiered at Bristol's Colston Hall. Going by the two scenes I
have heard of his latest opera, The Blackened Man, that
natural conviction continues undimmed.
Both Rozario and Hudson sing their hearts out
for this recording. I mention them with no disrespect to the bass
whose role is in the shadow of Cuthbert and the Angel. Listen
in track 3 to writing that reminded me of the passage from RVW's
Dona Nobis Pacem, 'word over all'. The ‘remora’
of the solo violin shadows the sleek and shapely leviathan of
Rozario's superb voice. The choral writing in Plague and Healing
(tr. 4) carries horror-charged intimations of pestilence and chaos.
Todd's stylistic 'bloodline' can loosely be related
to Vaughan Williams and Finzi. His more vigorous moments suggest
a knowledge of Peter Racine Fricker's unusually Waltonian work
A Vision of Judgement - for solo voices, chorus and orchestra.
Walton and that untypical Fricker work are called to mind by the
writing for percussion. Here is a composer who can 'speak' majesty
without bombast. His darting and stabbing trumpet writing in Plague
and Healing (tr. 4) is noteworthy and carries over into Enthronement
with its Sancta Civitas radiant exaltation.
Part 2 of the oratorio, which sees the death
of Cuthbert, continues the exalted atmosphere in the peaceful
warming glow of Lindisfarne (tr.6). The Vikings movement
sings of the Norsemen's onslaughts on the Anglo-Saxon communities
with percussive and staccato writing that passim suggests
Carl Orff's Trionfi. The threat and foreboding recall Sondheim's
music for the arrival of the American men of war in Pacific
Overtures. The sea and its untiring motion is summoned by
The Tide. The last of the ten sections, Prayer is,
at 11.58, the longest episode. Here the consummation of homecoming
is unmistakable as Cuthbert's spirit and community finds permanent
rest and benediction in Durham. All ends in a bright sunburst
of resounding hosannas.
bids fair to outperform Bantock, Villa-Lobos and Martinů.
It is difficult to keep up with him but let me assure you that
in a crowded musical world the effort is well worth your
while. Let us hope that both Isambard Kingdom Brunel opera
and The Blackened Man will soon find a production and a
The sung texts are given in full as part of the
stylishly presented yet functionally generous booklet.
I mentioned various other composers as triangulation
points earlier in this review. I should also have referred to
the grander choral-orchestral works of William Mathias. While
Todd's way with the percussion is not quite as gaudy as Mathias's
the choral and orchestral writing have certain resonances.
see also reviews by Lewis
Foreman and Neil