Samples & Downloads
The Mermaid, for narrator, mezzo-soprano, string quartet
and piano (2007) [11:59]
Russian Tableaux, for piano (2009) [10:48]
The Song of the Shirt, for mezzo-soprano and piano (1993)
Arabian Rhapsody Suite, for string quartet (2007-8) [9:48]
The Phantom Listeners, for narrator, soprano, mezzo, baritone,
organ and ensemble [38:34]
Kit Hesketh-Harvey (narrator) Clare McCaldin (mezzo) Emma Brain-Gabbott
(soprano) Michael Bundy (baritone) Tim Amherst (double-bass) Caroline
Dale (cello) Ben Fullbrook (percussion) Nigel Shipway (timpani)
Christian Wilson (piano, organ)
ad hoc quartet: Madeleine Easton (violin), Sarah-Jane Bradley (viola),
Bozidar Vukotic (cello), Ben Griffiths (double-bass)
George Vass (conductor)
rec. St Michael's, Highgate, London, 5-16 February 2010. DDD
NAXOS 8.572524 [75:12]
British composer of exotic Georgian-Russian-Greek-Austrian parentage,
Lydia Kakabadse is one of those unfortunate composers whose
music is so instantly appealing that its total neglect by broadcasters,
concert organisers, musicians and labels is utterly baffling.
This appears to be her first appearance on CD, and credit to
Naxos for recording this sparkling selection of Kakabadse's
The Song of the Shirt is a stand-alone lied, included
primarily because Kakabadse wrote it when she was still only
fifteen, setting a text by the 19th century poet Thomas Hood
describing poverty and exploitation of the poor. Though very
straightforward, it is well written, melodic and effective,
characteristics of all of Kakabadse's music on this disc.
In the two works scored for string quartet, Arabian Rhapsody
Suite and Russian Tableaux, a double-bass replaces
the usual second violin. Both cast in three movements and lasting
about ten minutes, these are fairly light works, successfully
focusing on conjuring up local atmosphere, but they are far
from trite and by dint of their easy-flowing melody would surely
make memorable fillers between profounder material in any number
of quartet recitals.
The final two works both include a role for narrator. Such pieces
are not always afforded the credit they merit, with their effectiveness
sometimes compromised by the 'wrong' narrator. But Kit Hesketh-Harvey
- the Kit of musical comedy duo 'Kit and the Widow' - is a safe
choice, being a fine communicator and having a decent voice
with little in the way of irritating mannerisms. The Mermaid
tells an unlikely story but is an extraordinarily appealing
one for young children, much in the style of Peter and the
Wolf but at 12 minutes an ideal length for little listeners.
The music, needless to say, is simple, but delectable and immediate
from beginning to end.
Hesketh-Harvey is occasionally slightly overbearing and melodramatic
in The Phantom Listeners, a much longer work based on
Walter de la Mare's famous 1912 poem, The Listeners,
with four additional scenes well written by Kakabadse's friend
Jen Syrkiewicz. Effectively Hesketh-Harvey recites the poem
- with considerable relish, shouting where necessary and sometimes
where not - over narrative music, whilst the soprano, mezzo
and baritone - the Phantom Listeners - sing here and there in
Latin. What they sing is only available to those fluent in Latin,
because Naxos only supply (via download) a copy of de la Mare's
poem with Syrkiewicz's additions.
This is in effect a cantata, and a fine one at that, suitable
for both adult and younger audiences alike. The work is lightly
but beautifully orchestrated by Kakabadse, with the occasional
dramatic use of organ, cymbals, side drum and chimes, and melodies
as timelessly appealing as those of the string quartet pieces.
The Latin actually works very well, lending the music an archaic
feel, rather like Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, which reinforces
the sense of the old that permeates de la Mare's poem.
Recording quality is very good, though the sound may be a tad
over-processed. The CD booklet is slim but informative: Kakabadse's
own notes on her works are helpfully descriptive, and every
single performer gets a small biography and photo - well earnt
indeed, for their contributions to this delightful CD that will
please, and deserves, a wide audience.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk