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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)
Sung texts are available online
rec. at Holy Trinity Church, Hereford, 2015

I must admit that I’m a novice when it comes to Tolkien and his highly personal world. I heard the novel The Hobbit being read on the radio almost fifty years ago and remember that I found it entertaining and quite fascinating, but I never went any further in exploring the Tolkien legacy. Consequently I may be the least suitable person to review the present disc, the music of which is so closely related to Tolkien. But my philosophy is that music should be possible to enjoy in strictly musical terms, and that’s the way I approached this disc. Moreover two colleagues have already reviewed it and Tolkienists (if such a word exists) are advised to read them as well.

The opening piece, Daeron for flute and piano, is a beautiful pastoral, melodious and soothing, but there are ominous chords in the piano that give signs of something unknown menacing. Nicola Loten plays with strong feeling. This is also the most recent composition on the disc. The Tolkien Songs Op. 9 that follow are instead the earliest. Strider is clearly indebted to folk music, as are several of the others. Song of the Eagle is as majestic as the bird in question, and Alive without breath is truly beautiful. Drinking Song is a duet for tenor and baritone, a bit boisterous and near the end of the song there is a bell signal: “Time, Gentlemen, please!” isn’t it? In Western lands has an unmistakable Britishness about it. Best of all, to my mind, is the concluding Roads go ever ever on: soft very beautiful and magical.

Shadow-Bride for soprano, viola and piano may be influenced by Johannes Brahms, not in musical terms but in the combination voice, viola and piano. Again there is British atmosphere and again there is something mysterious around it.

Mysteries of Time is the only work here with no references to Tolkien. Here I was fascinated by the darkness and cold of Graveyard, Adam Jondelius’s deeply involved reading of the highly atmospheric Yeats setting The seven woods of Coole, growing to a thrilling climax, yes, even two! And in the dramatic and intense The Queen of Air and Darkness the three singers join forces to great effect.

The final number, Akallabęth for solo piano, is also the longest. It is strong and powerful but with lyrical moments of great beauty. A fascinating composition, where the final section is a funeral march. Technically it must be a challenge for any pianist – and also for the instrument. Connor Fogel plays it with verve and commitment. Commitment is in fact something that characterises all the musicians involved in this programme, which was recorded on one single day. Paul Corfield Godfrey’s extensive liner notes are excellent and the song texts are available online.

Accessible and captivating music that should appeal to a wide audience.

Göran Forsling

Previous reviews: Stuart Sillitoe ~ Brian Wilson



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