Love Raise Your Voice
Carson COOMAN (b.1982)
Irreversible Heart
(2010) [9.11]
Tarik O’REGAN (b.1978)
(2005/10) [3.41]
Love Raise Your Voice (2010) [1.53]
Leonard ENNS (b.1948)
Death be not proud
Warm Summer sun from In The End (2004/2010) [2.08]
Richard WILSON (b.1941)
(2010) [4.29]
Swifts over Dublin (2010) [2.01]
Elizabeth HASKINS (b.1951)
My Garden
- Three Poems of Christina Rossetti [8.25]
Donald WAXMAN (b.1925)
(1998) [11.52]
Christine Howlett (soprano); Patrick Wood Uribe (violin); Holly Chatham (piano)
rec. January 2010-January 2011, Mary Anna Fox Recital Hall, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York. DDD
MSR CLASSICS MS1384 [49.51]
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 centre.
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 set.
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, utterly memorable.
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.
Gary Higginson 

This new and rare repertoire is well worth investigating.