Ronald Senator may not be a name you are familiar with, but here
is an English composer who can really write, and create music
which is of great worth. It is valuable, not just to everyone
interested in English music, but to anyone with an interest in
what is being created now, or in the very recent past.
Senator’s voice is English, but not of the pastoral school,
for his language is broader than that school would allow, and
his studies with Egon Wellesz (1944/1947) - a Schönberg
pupil - and Arnold Cooke (1955/1958) - a Hindemith pupil -
would have opened his ears to the music of the contemporary
This disk is a fabulous introduction to his music, for it shows
his innate lyricism, tinged with his own brand of, by turns,
melancholy and exuberance. Greenwood and Paradise is
a setting for two voices. They are here, the wonderful Marni
(good to have her back on disk) and Michael Philip Davis. They
are mediaeval French love lyrics sung in the original language
by the tenor and simultaneously, by the soprano, in Ursula
Vaughan Williams’s English translations. This is much
better than having two sopranos for there the lines cross too
cause confusion. It is a very beautiful work, full of tender
warmth and relaxed tunefulness.
The Four Shakespeare Sonnets are recitations of said
words by the pianist to her own accompaniment. They are well
by Miriam Brickman (Senator’s wife), for whom they were
written, and one can forgive the slight intrusion of her American
accent into such quintessentially English words for she understand
the words and the music serves to highlight the emotions and
images, without getting in the way of the text. It amazes me
that this piece isn’t heard more often for it is suitably
different to much contemporary piano music.
Spring Changes is an extended work for clarinet - Stanley
Drucker - recently retired from the first chair of the New
York Philharmonic, after a career of 61 years with them - and
It’s a major addition to the repertoire being a one movement
Fantasy Sonata of great virtuosity. If you need a comparison,
think of John Ireland’s Fantasy Sonata with a broader
harmonic base. Drucker plays quite brilliantly; it was written
for the two performers here, and the performance is one of total
conviction. This is a thrilling piece.
A Poet to his Beloved sets Yeats, in a rather impersonal
way, the words being at odds with the music. This is passionate
stuff, but at one remove, rather like looking at the lover and
the beloved than it being by the two. Isabelle Ganz is the full-voiced
soloist, and she brings a warmth to the music, which is implied
more than is obvious.
Don Quixote and Mobiles are both for piano. Don
Quixote is a quicksilver scherzo, racing hither and thither;
it’s a kind of bravura concert study. There are two books
of Mobiles and there is no indication here as to how the
pieces we have here fit into those two sets. However, the seven
pieces make a satisfying suite, ranging from high spirits to
brooding introspective, searching, slow movements.
The Polish Suite was written for Rivka Golani, but also
exists in versions for violin and cello. Five brief movements
play and cajole the senses, ending with a fiery Oberek.
The change from viola to cello has given the music more gravitas
and weightiness. Much as I enjoy the version for viola, this
has shed new light on the work.
The performances, throughout, are very good indeed. Everyone
shows a real commitment to the music. Miriam Brickman is the
sympathetic accompanist throughout - not to say virtuoso soloist
herself. The sound is a bit boxy and dated but don’t let
that bother you for the musical rewards are so great that this
music simply screams to be heard. If you don’t know Senator’s
work, don’t be a stranger to this fine English composer
and make him your discovery for 2010.