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Isabella Cheevers: As Long as a Tear
Peter HURFORD Litany to the Holy Spirit
Harold DARKE In the bleak mid winter
Henry PURCELL Music for a while
Edmund RUBBRA A hymn to the Virgin
John IRELAND Her Song
BONONCINI Per la glorie d'a dorarvi
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Orpheus with his lute
Peter WARLOCK Adam lay ybounden
Peter WARLOCK The first mercy
Gabriel FAURÉ Pie Jesu
Isabella Cheevers (soprano)
David Ruddock (keyboard accompanist)
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Isabella Cheevers has a fine voice and a great sensitivity in her singing. And for someone who is only fifteen years of age she is quite remarkable.

Unfortunately, she will be compared with Charlotte Church. However she is completely different. Her voice is more mature and polished and her interpretations are not superficial. Charlotte Church's first recording with her pure innocent voice were fine but she now seems to have gone in so many different directions. She is singing all manner of things and appearing on TV shows of little or no refinement which will do nothing for her reputation. Her voice has become shrill and penetrating which I consider may be partly due to her singing unsuitable and unworthy material.

Her concentration must be on her singing and obvious talent and not on the sleazy world of pop stars and quasi pop stars. Real music is not about glamour and appearing on cheap television shows. One laments opera stars and other classical singers appearing in concerts and on disc with pop stars. Pop music and light music is certainly not to be dismissed and some of it makes for excellent entertainment.

I understand that her first love is opera which is another reason why she must not engage in music where precision and quality is not necessarily required.

Isabella Cheevers was born in London in 1987 - the eldest of four daughters. On Saturdays she is an external student at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She has studied the piano and achieved her Grade 8. She is studying with Michael Lewin, who is internationally known as a guitarist. She has already achieved Grade 7 in guitar playing so she is a versatile musician. She is a member of the National Youth Guitar Ensemble. Tennis, swimming and walking with friends she enjoys just as much as any other teenage girl. She has successfully sung in singing contests and at concerts. One of her singing teachers was Clifford Lister, a chief lay clerk at Westminster Cathedral.

I hope Ms Cheevers is well advised. I was fortunate to study with some fine singers and have worked with many. I know how easy it is for a promising singer to be sidetracked or lured into less worthy projects.

If I have one criticism about this disc it is that all the music is slow, beautiful though it is. There are no lively songs and a contrast would have been welcome. Her recital covers about 400 years of music.

Peter Hurford's setting of Robert Herrick's Litany to the Holy Spirit is well paced and the breathy style is very appealing. It shows the security of her velvet low notes. David Ruddock's accompaniment is truly admirable. Her phrasing is a joy in what is a lovely setting. Singing slowly is an art in itself. It shows up every blemish, every bad breathing technique, but there are no flaws here.

Harold Darke's In the bleak midwinter is only given one verse but how well it is sung. Her long notes are so safe and she keeps the final phrase, which starts with a long note, intact. The piece is best as a choral piece and we would have liked another verse. How would she interpret Christina Rossetti's telling last verse?

She has put a lot of thought into Purcell's Music for a while. She observes all the rests and phrases and contrary to what some self-opinionated people say it is a difficult song to bring off. Often the voice is exposed and rather precariously. I prefer Judith Buckle's singing of this little gem.

I liked Edmund Rubbra. He was such a humble man and highly intellectual. It is my view that his best works were written for the voice and this is but one example. She shows her natural gift here. What I most like is the effortlessness in her performance yet the song takes a great deal of effort.

John Ireland was also a likeable man. He taught my teacher Humphrey Searle for a while and said of Humphrey, "He is the best and cleverest musician I have ever known!" I have never rated Ireland's work apart from a few of his descriptive piano works and that splendid choral work These things shall be. His songs are very fine . His setting of Ernest Dowson's If we must part is a faultless song and the song on this disc, Her Song, is another fine example. It is sung without cloying sentiment.

I am not sure about the Bononcini piece. To me it needed a sweeter tone and I do not think the style was captured. But let me emphasise that these are minor points and my long years in singing has given me the disadvantage of experience!

Ralph Vaughan Williams was the best British composer writing in a diatonic style for the voice. His choral works are masterpieces from the sublime Serenade to Music to the Tudor Portraits and the neglected G minor Mass. Perhaps only Linden Lea is well known among his songs but who can forget Heddle Nash's performance of Silent Noon? On this disc we have one of the Shakespeare songs sung with a telling simplicity which always works best.

After two Peter Warlock songs we have the famous Pie Jesu from Fauré's Requiem (the only Pie Jesu, as someone said) sung a shade too fast perhaps, but still with that beautiful and very earthy voice. Quite delightful!

What I like about Ms Cheevers’ singing is the total lack of excess and effect. The music speaks for itself and so it should. There are no glissandi or portamenti, no playing to the gallery, no tear-jerkers, no nonsense - just music sung for music's sake and sung well.

I hope that she will be well advised as to repertoire and adhere to worthy music for then she should have a worthy career which I will watch with interest.

David Wright

update

In 2006 Isabella was awarded a choral scholarship to Oxford University and has also achieved a diploma in piano performance (the dip.ABRSM) and Grade 8 distinction in classical guitar. Recent operatic roles include Bastienne in ‘Bastien und Bastienne’ (Mozart) and Dido in ‘Dido and Aeneas’ (Purcell). She has also worked as a Musical Director and continues to perform frequently in concerts and recitals across the UK.




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