This is an enterprising release of contemporary music for voice,
violin and piano; not, you might think, a common combination.
The three young performers are the Canadian soprano Christine
Howlett who commissioned the song-cycle by Carson Cooman, British-Mexican
violinist Patrick Wood Uribe and the American pianist Holly
Chatham. Each has already made a firm reputation and they quite
miraculously inhabit these differing pieces in lovely and sympathetic
performances which must thrill the six composers represented.
Their recital begins well with the beautiful cycle Irreversible
Heart by Carson Cooman who although he is only thirty has
had his music on as many as thirty-five CDs. On listening to
this work I can quite see why he is much sought after. The three
poems by New York-based poetess Jane Hirshfield are all about
the yearnings and pains of the heart including a poem with the
wonderful title of Mule Heart and to start with Unnameable
Heart. The language is, I suppose, chromatic-modal; that’s
a bit simplistic, but perhaps you get the idea. The vocal writing
is most elegant and idiomatic. The word setting is effective
and the work casts a very special atmosphere.
The two songs by Richard WilsonCouple and Swifts
over Dublin are settings of poems by Eamon Grennan. In the
first Crickets are highlighted in the spikey opening but this
is a simple domestic scene of a couple eating but viewed though
a window. The violin is pizzicato throughout in the second song,
which is aphoristic and ecstatic to match the swifts swirling
over the city. The language is freely chromatic but has a tonal
Two of the best items come next. Tarik O’Regan was born
in London and is becoming well known for his choral works. His
setting in French of a typically symbolist text by Mallarmé,
Sainte,for just voiceand piano,is
ethereal and beatific. The violin joins in with the exuberant
Love Raise Your Voice, the title of the CD and quite
rightly too. It’s, another fabulous text this time by
our own Andrew Motion so suitable for music. I kept playing
it over and over and to friends: all loved it.
John Donne’s famous poem Death be not proud is
one of two songs selected from Canadian composer Leonard Enns’
Cycle In the End. This includes the violin and the piano.
Its somewhat free tonality helps to emphasise a mixture of anger,
patience and calm. The second song is an epitaph by Mark Twain
for his daughter Olivia, Warm Summer sun but is, by contrast,
more gentle, tonal and lyrical. I get the impression that the
cycle was first composed without the piano. It was rewritten
six years later, perhaps for this recording.
The three poems that make up American composer Elizabeth Haskins’
My Garden are by Christina Rossetti. I was much taken
with this work. You might argue that the first, There is
Budding Morrow in Midnight is derivative and that the second
Spring Quiet is just a mock-Irish modal dance. The wistful
third song Another Spring although tonal/modal is quite
exquisite and beautifully moving in the interweaving of the
violin with the voice: If I might see another spring.
All three work perfectly as a (too) short yet life-enhancing
The title of the last song-cycle on the disc seems conventional
enough, Lovesongs by the veteran American Donald Waxman.
These are not your usual sugary love texts and are refreshingly
unfamiliar. The first Lovesong by Rilke is set, minus
the piano and is a contemplation of togetherness and yet proposing
a need for separateness. Next comes an excitable and agitated
setting of Herrick’s The Mad Maid’s Song
now with both instruments. Waxman himself has translated Nocturne,
love in the quiet of night, from an anonymous French poem,
no date for it is given. Finally an almost Tippett-like lightness
caresses A Bygone Occasion by Thomas Hardy, recalling
an old, joyous and loving meeting. The musical language is entirely
diatonic and the whole work is totally approachable, if not,
Full texts are given, as are biographies and photos of the performers.
The curious notes on the composers only tell us where they work
and what awards they have each won, many and manifold incidentally.
Crucially there’s nothing about the actual songs themselves.
The recording is close but pleasing. The short playing time
is a nuisance and might put you off but this new and rare repertoire
is well worth investigating.