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Music for My Love: Celebrating the Life of a Special Woman - Volume One
Kodály Philharmonic Orchestra/Paul Mann
rec. June 2016, Pásti Synagogue, Debrecen, Hungary

Toccata Classics' Martin Anderson met Yodit Tekle in 2008 and, with all the stars in alignment, they became an item. Tragically her life was to end in 2015 aged 37 as a result of stomach cancer. Martin asked composer friends to write music for string orchestra to bring her comfort in her last days and then as a way that she could be remembered in music. There are now more than 100 new pieces for string orchestra written in response. You can read more about this here.

With the exception of the penultimate work on this disc - Söderlind's Variations (15:15) - these pieces for string orchestra are not lengthy

Brahms’ Von ewiger Liebe - a touching song in its own right - is heard in a smooth and earnest arrangement by Ragnar Söderlind. The notes include the poem set by Brahms in German and in Martin Anderson's translation into English. The sound and the music is both springy and broadly glowing.

Robin Holloway's Music for Yodit is big-hearted, elegiac but not heavy-footed. It includes a dancing middle section which while not dazzling does no violence to the mood of the opening. The music rises to a Sibelian silvery sheen.

Poul Ruders' Lullaby for Yodit is very short at 2:10. It is a touching piece echoing the sound of breathing.

Mihkel Kerem has been heard on Toccata before now: (TOCC0173 and TOCC0140). His A Farewell for Yodit moves in very slow processional clouds of sound. The effect is of floating - the gravity of earth's pull and the release of flight held in equipoise. Similar effects can be experienced in Silvestrov's Fifth Symphony although here there is no horizontal density of intermingling ideas.

Andrew Ford's Sleep took as its embarkation a piece by Ford for three sopranos. The stabbing and singing violins are redolent of Britten in the Serenade but held back and taking a poignant toll.

Steve Elcock's Song for Yodit was the first piece written for Yodit and she was able to hear it in MIDI form. Its temper is fixed between Finzi and Sibelius's Valse Triste.

The Australian composer Brett Dean wrote Angels’ Wings (Music for Yodit). As it happens it shares something with the Söderlind track. It is an arrangement of a piece written in homage to Brahms. This score has darkling tendencies and is not afraid of mysteries and dissonance.

Jon Lord (1941-2012) will be familiar to many as a founding member of the rock band Deep Purple. He will also be familiar as a collaborator with Malcolm Arnold in a work that attempted to bridge the rock and classical genres. This site has reviewed several of his concert works (review review review) and we can hope that his final work - Darkness to Light, a meditation for soloists, choir and orchestra - will also be recorded. Paul Mann is in the process of editing Lord's complete works for publication. Lord's Zarabanda Solitaria is heard here in a most sensitive arrangement by Mr Mann.

John Pickard's … forbidding mourning … is another arrangement, this time of a piece heard on a Pickard collection on Toccata (TOCC150). This work with its gravely forward-impelled urgency has a smoothly calculated fade to ineffable silence. It's very masterly to have achieved that effect in the span of only 6:27.

We return to Ragnar Söderlind for his 15 Variations on a Norwegian Folktune (Å, den svalande vind). It is the only lengthy piece here but each variation is separately tracked. There is a sable swell to this piece but also a genial and confiding sobriety (var. 5), flashes of pressing impatience, chorale-like elegies, mysterious rapid flowing Herrmann-like moments (var. 11) and a glowing but very engaging fragility (var. 15). It would be good if someone embarked on a cycle of Söderlind's nine symphonies; I suspect they would be extremely rewarding. This sequence of variations is extremely impressive in its own right and I urge you to hear it. It stands, as it should, quite free from the circumstances of this disc.

The 16th century composer, Maddalena Casulana's Il vostro dipartir is heard in a cathedral-massive sky-spanning arrangement by Colin Matthews. There's more than a touch of Stokowski-Bach luxury here but none the worse for that.

The contributing composers and arrangers here are profiled in considerable detail.

Touching music with an entirely appropriate unity of mood. We must hope that the response to this disc will enable later volumes to be recorded and issued.

Rob Barnett

Previous review: David Brown



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