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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers

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Mohammed FAIROUZ (b. 1985)
Refugee Blues (2011) [9.57]
Jeder Mensch (2011) [8.33]
The Eternal Source [3.31]
Today I Realized Something Very Strange [2.31]
The Celebration of the Spirit [2.31]
No Orpheus (2009) [11.27]
He Tells His Mother What He’s Working On [5.20]
No Orpheus [3.55]
Her Waltz [2.12]
German Romantic Song (2014) [3.12]
Three Fragments from Ibn Khafajah [8.07]
Three Fragments I [0.33]
Three Fragments II [4.15]
Three Fragments III [3.19]
The Stolen Child (2005) [2.49]
After the Revels (2009) [4.30]
We are Seven (2009) [6.57]
Annabel Lee (2014) [6.06]
Kate Lindsey (mezzo); Kiera Duffy (soprano); Christopher Burchett (baritone); David Moody (piano); Adrian Daurov (cello); David Kaplan (piano); Margaret Lancaster (flute); Emily Ondracek-Peterson (violin); Ashley Bathgate (cello); Rupert Boyd (guitar); Russell Miller (piano)
rec. Oktaven Audio, Yonkers, NY, 5 June, 19 September, 8 October, 10 October, 2014
NAXOS 8.559783 [61.39]

For those familiar with some of Mohammed Fairouz’s very large output this well-performed CD will need no further recommendation. For those unfamiliar, it provides an excellent introduction to his sound-world, one which lovers of twentieth century English song would find congenial. The Stolen Child might easily be a dark fugitive from the original score of Elgar’s Starlight Express. Anyone who loved the songs of Finzi or Britten could find a ready home here.

Fairouz has described himself as ‘obsessed with text’ and that obsession is evident here. Music lines permit words to emerge clearly. No text is provided with the CD and none is needed. There is an evident sympathy with singers, and what is written lies well with the chosen voice. Kate Lindsey, the mezzo-soprano on this CD who appears also in Fairouz’s song-cycle Audenesque (in memory of W.B.Yeats), on Follow, Poet (DG B0022417), commissioned Jeder Mensch, settings of poems by Alma Mahler. On the current recording, she sings the first seven numbers, accompanied by David Moody for Refugee Blues, (poem by W.H. Auden) and Jeder Mensch, and by Adrian Daurov (cello) for No Orpheus. This short cycle was written in memory of the composer’s grandmother, from poems by Lloyd Schwartz. The No Orpheus title is explained by the reality that there was no way back for Schwartz’s mother from her memory loss. The music is at times energetic, but with a wistfulness that cuts through the good times. Lindsey has a voice described by the composer in his notes as radiant, and she has a clear, almost bell-like tone. The only tiny flaw is a tendency not fully to enunciate consonants at the end of phrases, but the commitment and understanding demonstrate affection for the music.

Three Fragments from Ibn Khajafah were commissioned by the Cygnus ensemble, and were set for soprano, accompanied by a quartet of flute, cello, violin and guitar. Ibn Khafajah (1058-1138/9) was an Andalucian poet. The fragments come from homo-erotic poems, as is After the Revels, from verse by Ibn Shuhayd. The Fragments are the most obviously ‘modern’ pieces, with haunting material especially for the flute. Kiera Duffy sings admirably.

Christopher Burchett has a lovely baritone for the remaining songs, perhaps the most instantly attractive on the recording. His articulation is impeccable.

Recording quality is excellent throughout. For any lover of song, this is a disc to explore.

Michael Wilkinson



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