Anne Dudley, best known for her work with The Art of Noise and to filmusic
fans for her [some might say scandalous] Oscar win with "The Full Monty,"
enters the classical arena with this effectual debut album of reinterpreted
carols, chorales, and hymns. In doing so, it sounds as if Dudley brought
forward every Thespian force she has at her disposal.
The track selection alone is incredible. It can be a joy to hear new things,
but it can be equally joyous to hear old things in new ways! With excerpts
of J.S. Bach, Thomas Tallis, and several traditional English melodies, there
is no shortage of variety and technical, emotional, or theological depth
to the compilation's listing. Dudley's orchestrations are nearly as impressive:
She turned the unforgettable Sussex Carol into a canzonetta for string quintet
that left me wanting more. She transformed the already mysterious 'Tallis'
Canon' into a symphonic work with sincere, bold, dramatic concentration.
She took Bach's Prelude in B-flat minor and arranged it as an extremely
listenable essay for double reed quintet. And more. The album succeeds in
both sacred and secular senses as 'a great noise.'
Some uncomfortable moments remain, but these mostly center on repetitive,
soporific, generally synthesized musical undercurrents. Fans of minimalism
may enjoy the inventiveness, but those who feel minimalism is a bit, well,
minimal will discover tracks that are most certainly hard going. (The Steve
Reich motivated adaptation of 'The Holly and the Ivy' may leave some listeners
wanting to drench the ivy in Roundup and chop down the holly once and for
all... I had to fight that urge myself.)
The sound is frequently resonant, the performances from orchestra, choir,
percussionists, et al are commanding, and the sleeve notes (song texts and
a short Anne Dudley biography) help add to one's perspective of what went
into this disc. The album production is uniformly tiptop.
Victorian author Thomas Carlyle once wrote, "Music is well said to be the
speech of angels." Taking Carlyle's words at face value, I venture to add
that Dudley's angelic muse must speak very eloquently.