The English composer
David Golightly studied music in Huddersfield with Richard Steinitz.
He was born in County Durham and now lives in Cheshire. A career
as a freelance commercial orchestrator included making the arrangements
used by the Latvian soprano Inessa Galante in her Campion CDs.
His music is well worth watching out for as was well and truly
announced some five years ago with the issue of his First Symphony
This is the second
all-Golightly disc. It concentrates on his music for male voice
chorus topped up with other people's arrangements of fourteen
Golightly's two groups
of songs explore the poignant melancholy of Alexander Pushkin
in Rites of Passage. He is here in the same territory as
two twentieth century Russian masters who have set Pushkin for
chorus: Georgy Sviridov and Boris Tchaikovsky. As for Golightly's
other work featured here not all that long ago it would have been
unthinkable for a Russian choir to have recorded or even sung
a sequence of American folksongs (mostly of 'cowboy' origin).
Frontiers includes such Western favourites as The Chisholm
Trail, Shenandoah and The Streets of Laredo -
songs also used to glowing effect in Roy Harris's unbuttoned Symphony
No. 4 Folksong recently recorded by Marin Alsop for Naxos.
In the two Golightly
sequences the stride and shaping of each song apart from Shenandoah
is aided and enriched by the assertively recorded piano of
Golightly's style is
exuberant and forward, emotional and exciting. He knows the human
voice well and I suspect was delighted to be able to write for
a fully professional choir, as here. In fact some of this reminded
me of another British composer, the late Geoffrey Bush.
The Pushkin songs,
setting translations into English by Henry Jones, are sung and
recorded with a warmth the emotional and calorific value of which
will thaw the coldest heart and hands. The choir must have been
very close up to the microphones which caused my headphones some
stress in several fortissimo passages. There is a striking gauntness
and iron-bell stoniness about the final song Elegy. The
accent of the soloist is quite thick in The Singer so the
words cannot always be picked out. You hear the same thing in
the five American folk songs of Frontiers. Still it compares
nicely with the sometimes cheesy collegiate brilliance of Stokowski's
recording of the Roy Harris Folksong symphony (was the
choir any better on the Abravanel EMI Angel recording - it never
made it to CD). These are settings with blood coursing through
the veins. The choir make a specially telling effect in Shenandoah
and they do so without succumbing to the many invitations
to sentimentality. Superb stuff ... and my do you hear
the Russian bass resonance! The pace of The Streets of Laredo
is surprisingly leisurely when compared with the Roy Harris
- much more elegiac but with a skip in the step. It works well!
The setting of John Hardy is vehemently and grippingly
We now leave Golightly
for some arrangements of Russian folksongs by Alexander Sveshnikov
- a name well known as the great conductor of the reference
Melodiya recording of Rachmaninov's Vespers - and by Govorov,
Bogdanov, Schwartz and Nikitin. These are shot through with vibrancy.
The boozy humour and flighty lightheartedness is carried off to
perfection in the triumphantly virtuosic Along the Piterskaya
Street with much interplay between the choir and bass Gennadi
Martemianov. The melancholy dreaminess of the suave The Bell
is Jingling (surely that should be ringing) monotonously
makes an unconscious connection with Negro spirituals. The echoes
of Russian orthodox chant can be heard in full glory in Oh
you are so broad the steppe. The snowdrifts melt is
driven by the fast clip-clop of the woodblock. Familiar friends
include the Song of the Volga boatmen here
rendered as Volga hardworkers.
Typically Russian is the lugubrious The steppe is all around
with basso profundo Vladimir Chechnev taking the solo. The
masculine roughened precision of What's your song about you
gilded bee is well worth sampling. The floated gold of Igor
Vozny's bel canto tenor is buoyantly sustained above the
slow-rung bell evocations of Those evening bells. Kalinka,
with its slowings and accelerations, is familiar and a pleasure
to hear again.
The words for the Golightly
songs are printed in full. Each of the folksongs is described
in the booklet through a synopsis rather than a full text. They
are sung in Russian. All the others on this CD are sung in English.
The print may be on
the small side but the words of all the songs are printed in the
booklet. A pity though that the playing times of each piece and
of the whole disc is not given anywhere.
The first disc which
offered the First Symphony, a work which shows the influence of
Shostakovich, was stunningly well-recorded and a CD of the Second
Symphony is much anticipated. I hope that we will not have to
Glorious Slav male
voices compromised somewhat by distortion when the signal is
under pressure of this typically intense Russian singing.