Cheryl FRANCES-HOAD (b.1980) The Glory Tree
Memoria (2002) [17:23]
My Fleeting Angel (2005) [10:13]
The Snow Woman (2007) [6:53]
The Ogre Lover (2007) [8:07]
Invocation (2008) [3:58]
Bouleumata (2008) [3:18]
Melancholia (1999) [13:26]
The Glory Tree (2005) [13:45]
Nicholas Daniel (oboe), Lendvai String Trio, Ensemble na Mara, Oliver Coates (cello), Alisdair Beatson (piano), Natalia Lomeiko (violin), Leonid Gorokhov (cello), Students of the Yehudi Menuhin School, Catriona Scott (clarinet), London Mozart Trio, Natalie Raybould (soprano), Kreisler Ensemble, Matilda Hofman (director)
rec. 22-24 September 2008, Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex DDD
CHAMPS HILL RECORDS CHRCD021 [77:00]
Cheryl Frances-Hoad is an exciting name in new music. Winner
of multiple awards, including most recently two British Composer
Awards, Frances-Hoad is rapidly forging a successful career
as a composer. This, her debut CD, comprises chamber works written
over a ten year period, and shows something of the range that
this impressive composer has to offer.
The opening work, Memoria, is a Prelude and Fugue for
oboe/cor anglais, string trio and piano. Nicholas Daniel’s stunningly
expressive opening lines are immediately engaging, and the piano
chords which support it provide a wonderful sense of atmosphere.
The momentum gathers, and there is a sense of expansive emotion
within the work. Frances-Hoad’s compositional style hints at
the Romantic, but within a modern musical language. It is immediately
clear from the opening of this disc that emotional expression
is an important factor in her writing, and this first track
demonstrates the essence of that extraordinarily well. The piece
is written as a tribute to Sidney ‘Jock’ Sutcliffe, who was
one of Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s mentors at the Menuhin School,
and takes its basis from Bach’s second cello suite, although
no direct quotes can be heard. My Fleeting Angel,
for piano trio, demonstrates some exciting rhythmic energy and
is based on a short story by Sylvia Plath. Frances-Hoad’s music
often takes other works of art as a starting point, be they
other pieces of music (such as the Bach reference in the previous
piece), literature or poetry. The central scherzo is a particularly
dazzling display of coruscating lines and changing rhythms,
building towards a strong and arresting climax. The charming
waltz that follows has a sense of ambiguous charm.
Natalia Lomeiko’s dazzling violin playing comes to the fore
in The Snow Woman, a 2007 work which is based on a Shaman
story. The three movements are played without a pause, and the
demands on the violinist are considerable. Lomeiko’s playing
is outstanding, with a wonderful sense of character and impressive
control of the double-stopped lines.
The predominance of string writing on this disc perhaps stems
from Frances-Hoad’s background as a cellist. There is certainly
a sense of naturalness and understanding in her strong chamber
works. The Ogre Lover comprises seven short, linked episodes,
based on poetry by Ted Hughes. There is a sense of playfulness
here, with a variety of textures within the episodes describing
dream-like images. This is a piece which appeals to the imagination
and demonstrates Frances-Hoad’s compositional craft.
The rich and luxurious sound of Invocation, scored for
seven cellos and double-bass, comes as a complete contrast to
the brightness of the previous work. Here, Frances-Hoad has
captured a wonderful resonance of sound, and I found this short
work deeply touching. The solo cello part is beautifully performed
by Leonid Gorokhov, and elements of the ensemble writing reminded
me a little of the Vaughan Williams Tallis Fantasia.
This piece also exists in duo versions for cello and double-bass
with piano, and takes its material from the piano trio work,
Melancholia.Bouleumata for solo clarinet
is just over three minutes long, and within that short space
of time, demonstrates the virtuoso range of the instrument.
There is a sense of natural flow and drama, and moments brought
to mind the clarinet writing in Messiaen’s Quartet for the
End of Time, in their sense of scope and expression. This
is a piece which deserves to become a staple part of the solo
With Messiaen already in mind, the piano writing at the opening
of Melancholia also draws parallels. Frances-Hoad’s sumptuous
harmonic language is powerful and expressive by equal measure,
and her compositional language already, in 1999 when this was
composed, shows maturity. The playing here, by the London Mozart
Trio, is committed and dramatic, bringing out the emotional
depths of the work effectively. The piece takes the form of
a theme and three variations, and is based on a work by Edvard
The final work on the disc is the song-cycle, The Glory Tree,
which is a setting of an Anglo-Saxon text for soprano and ensemble
in five movements. Natalie Raybould’s clear and convincing soprano
voice handles the considerable demands impressively, and the
accompanying ensemble brings out the drama in the work well.
Frances-Hoad seems to have a natural affinity for working with
text. The ensemble writing is well balanced and makes use of
an enticing range of textures and moods.
Overall, this is a disc which achieves excellence throughout,
both in the musical material and in the quality of performance.
Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s music is refreshingly engaging and unapologetic,
with a strong sense of identity and emotional depth. The assembled
musicians maintain a high level of expression and communicate
the music very well. This makes an essential part of any contemporary
music listening library.
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