Present Arts On CD

Harp Meets Piano

This is one of those discs that really should not work but most emphatically does. It would be easy for the piano to drown out the harp constantly but the blend is well handled by the engineer in Paris…

Strozzi

This set of cantatas and arias date from 1664 when Barbara Strozzi was in her mid forties and stylistically moving away from the first flush of the baroque towards freer dramatic expression. Sadly they are the last works we can be certain are by her, though she lived for another 13 years…

Elgar

Sea Pictures has endured for more than a century as the most loved orchestral song cycle in English music and perhaps the only one that appeals consistently to continental audiences, so it is not as surprising as it might be to have two new recordings in as many months…

Beethoven

Lucy Russell is more usually heard these days as the first violin of the Fitzwilliam Quartet so it’s good to hear her solo and in period instrument guise – she’s also Professor of baroque violin at the RCM. There is an awful lot right with this recording of early sonatas. Their essential domesticity comes through in the balance between the period instruments; nobody is trying to project to the back of a concert hall, just to somewhere the other side of the drawing room in a modest aristocratic mansion. Russell and Seskir are crisp with the music but do not bully it…

Vaughan Williams

Job, apart from being a marvellous score and equally marvellous piece of storytelling, is a much more important work than its relatively rare performances suggest. Between 1927 and 1930 it brought together some of the most fascinating people in the artistic life of Britain. The idea for the masque came from Geoffrey Keynes, John Maynard’s brother, who had been buying up copies of William Blake’s works since he was a student in the early years of last century…

American Composers At Play

This collection is something of a treasure, not just because Stephen Powell sings the songs superbly but because in so many of them he is accompanied by the composers. We know we are getting what the composers intended: especially valuable in the case of the pieces by Ricky Ian Gordon, which are mostly first recordings…

Veracruz: Sones y Flores

This disc is becoming something of a guilty pleasure for me. I keep putting it on when I should be reviewing something more serious. In truth there is nothing in the nine pieces on it that can be described as anything other than easy listening, though that does not mean they are bad or trivial. There is an abundance of gentle melody, as in the wistful title track, Veracruz by Lara, and an irresistible lilt to the music…

Blackford

I have known Richard Blackford since we were at school together fifty years ago so I should, in those Parliamentary words, declare an interest. Whatever that interest, I still think he is one of the finest composers in Britain, unusually far better known in the rest of Europe and America than he is here, which is to his credit…