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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Daeron, Op. 45 [6:30]
Tolkien Songs, Op. 9 [20:05]
Mysteries of Time, Op. 44 [23:46]
Akallabęth, Op. 42 [17:09]
Tara McSwiney (soprano), Andrew Henley (tenor), Adam Jondelius (baritone)
Nicola Loten (flute), Niamh Ferris (viola), Immanuel Carl Maria Vogt (piano), Connor Fogel (piano)
rec. Holy Trinity Church, Hereford, November 2015

I have had the pleasure of knowing “Corf” for a few years now, through our involvement in the committee of the Federation of Recorded Music Societies. In that time I have come to appreciate his passion for music making and education in his adopted Wales. This is, however, the first of his own music that I have heard. I was not sure what I was going to get, especially since most of the music here reflects his interest in the literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

The first work on the disc, Daeron, is an arrangement for flute and piano of music originally composed for a work entitled Beren and Lúthien. Based upon Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, it tells the story of Daeron, the minstrel of Doriath. This miniature tone poem has a tonal beauty that reminds me of turn of the twentieth century French music. It makes a fine opening to the disc. Nicola Loten is really convincing in this music. She has a beauty of tone which brings out the best in this music.

The cycle Tolkien Songs, the earliest work on this disc, presents six songs based upon the author’s most famous books, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The cycle belongs among the great English storytelling songs, and there is a nod to the folk tradition. In the first song, Strider, we meet Aragorn, the true king. The music portrays the pensive aspect of the character’s makeup and points to the heroic aspect, which is to come later in the story. There is also a lively duet for tenor and baritone, the Drinking Song, which introduces Merry and Pippin. My favourite of the Tolkien songs is Alive without breath, about the scheming Gollum who plans to regain the ring. I have distant memories of hearing a setting of Roads go ever on by Donald Swann, but the tender walking song on this CD makes a great final piece of the cycle. The notes point us to the texts available online. When you visit the site, you learn that there is a seventh Tolkien song, Farewell to Lórien. It is a real shame that this is not included here.

Shadow-Bride is another Tolkien song setting. It comes from The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, and is not related to the other song settings. Here the voice and piano are joined by the excellent viola played by Niamh Ferris. It is employed to depict the woman of a doomed couple and her role in the relationship. This is a strangely attractive work, given the subject matter, and portrays a sense of empathy.

The following song cycle, Mysteries of Time, is the only work here that is not inspired by Tolkien. It brings us instead a collection of five settings of poems by the likes of Gerald Manley Hopkins and William Buttler Yeats. The cycle contains the longest song setting on this disc, The Queen of Air and Darkness, a setting of Poul Anderson, who is a poet new to me. The composer describes it as “a sort of counterpoint to Goethe’s Erlking,” with the different singers portraying the differing aspects of the poem. This powerful poem has been given a dually powerful setting, one which is sympathetic to the feelings portrayed in the poem.

With the final work on the disc, Akallabęth, we return to Tolkien’s world—that of The Silmarillion. This tone poem for solo piano, the longest single piece on the disc, deals with the downfall of the kingdom of Númenor. This is a striking piano piece on a grand scale, with aspects of hope and desolation clearly identified in the music. This is Connor Fogel’s only appearance on this disc. He acquits himself well, giving a strong performance.

Over all the performances are good. I do find that the soprano, Tara McSwiney, has a little too much vibrato in her voice for my liking, especially in the second of the Tolkien Songs, Song of the Eagle; it is less prevalent in her other contributions. This is my only gripe, with my personal preference for a more pure voice being tempered by my love of period performance, which not everyone likes. Andrew Henley and Adam Jondelius are both in fine voice and are convincing in the songs, whilst Immanuel Carl Maria Vogt proves an accomplished accompanist. This is strong melodic music born out of the twentieth century tonal tradition. The composer describes each track in detail in his extensive notes.

Stuart Sillitoe
Track listing
1 Daeron, Op. 45 [6:30]
Tolkien Songs, Op. 9
2 Strider [1:27]
3 Song of the Eagle [4:01]
4 Alive without breath [1:35]
5 Drinking Song [1:11]
6 In Western lands [3:55]
7 Roads go ever on [3:50]
8 Shadow-Bride, Op. 33 [4:06]
Mysteries of Time, Op. 44
9 The mystery [2:32]
10 Cywydd [1:48]
11 Graveyard [3:16]
12 The seven woods of Coole [6:11]
13 The Queen of Air and Darkness [9:59]
14 Akallabęth, Op. 42 [17:09]



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