I have long complained of the absence of recordings of Hilary
Tann’s music. Now, here is a disc entirely devoted to a
cross-section of her chamber music. This allows a better appraisal
of her output. This is assisted by the selection having taken
in works from a span of more than twenty years.
The Walls of Morlais Castle
- originally composed for
flute, guitar and cello - is heard here in a later revision for
oboe, viola and cello. The music alternates between calm, pastoral
episodes suggesting the surrounding landscape and livelier ones
suggestive of “the hustle and bustle of the former castle”.
This is a lovely, colourful and warmly melodic work of great
Songs of the Cotton Grass
is a short song-cycle for soprano
and viola to words by Menna Elfyn. The songs were composed between
1999 and 2005. The first was originally for mezzo-soprano and
the revised for soprano. The settings for voice and stringed
instrument remind one of Holst’s Four Songs
(1917) and of RVW’s Along the Field
the worse for that.
The Cresset Stone
for solo viola has been recorded before:
in “Celtic Connections” on Capstone CPS-8640. A cresset
stone is a hollowed-out stone, filled with oil and used as a
lamp. The work is “a meditation on stone and light” and,
to these ears, evokes the light and shade in Brecon Cathedral
that contains such a stone.
From the Song of Amergin
is for the “Debussy trio” of
flute, viola and harp. The composer mentions that three lines
from Robert Graves’ restoration of the text of an ancient
Celtic calendar-alphabet, the Song of Amergin
inspired the piece. By avoiding any obvious programmatic scheme
the music leaves much to one’s imagination. “I am
a wind : on a deep lake/I am a tear : the Sun lets fall/I am
a hawk : above the cliff”. This is beautiful and attractive,
and a worthy alternative to the celebrated and ubiquitous Debussy
The somewhat earlier Duo
for viola and oboe may present
a rather unusual instrumental combination - I cannot think of
another example. However it works remarkably well and the rather
unpromising title conceals a lively and at times fairly animated
dialogue between the instruments.
The piano trio Nothing Forgotten
has also been recorded
before on North/South N/S R 1027 reviewed here some time ago.
If The Walls of Morlais Castle
, The Cresset Stone
the Song of Amergin
refer to Tann’s Celtic roots, Nothing
points to the Adirondacks where the composer lives.
The piece is in three movements played without a break and the
music briefly quotes from and alludes to two Adirondack songs.
Again, this is a beautifully melodic and warmly lyrical. It repays
This programme is centred on Matthew Jones’ immaculate
playing and faultless musicality in which he is matched by his
partners. All in all this is an attractive release and is well
worth more than the occasional hearing.