Alan Bush: Meditation on a German Song of 1848; Lyric Interlude; Serenade and Duet, Op. 111; Three Raga Melodies; Song and Dance, Op. 117a

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COMPOSERS: Alan Bush
LABELS: Meridian
WORKS: Meditation on a German Song of 1848; Lyric Interlude; Serenade and Duet, Op. 111; Three Raga Melodies; Song and Dance, Op. 117a
PERFORMER: Adam Summerhayes (violin), Catherine Summerhayes (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDE 84481
This is Meridian’s second volume (the first was reviewed in December 2002) of what promises to be an absorbing survey of Alan Bush’s chamber works. It aids the slow process of bringing to wider notice the achievements – all political questions apart – of one of the most masterly 20th-century British composers of instrumental music. While Bush’s adoption, in his later years, of various forms of ‘English’ modality may have been ideologically motivated, the issue is how he handled that harmonic idiom: and even in very late pieces like Serenade and Duet and the Two Preludes and Fugues (not a form often associated with violin/piano duo) he did so with great skill. Whether in these gentler late compositions or the intense, driven, totally thematic earlier works, the writing is always demanding because it’s continuously polyphonic, the intimate lyricism often emerging on the wing, as a by-product of nervous energy. The jewels here are the Meditation on a German Song, which establishes parallels with Hindemith’s Trauermusik, and the misleadingly titled Lyric Interlude, more a four-movement elegiac sonata prompted by the tragic death of the composer’s daughter in a road accident. The unaccompanied Three Raga Melodies stand out for the intensity and Bachian purity Bush brings to what in other hands might be merely ‘exotic’ material. These dedicated, affectionate performances are completely adequate technically and expressively refined, but could be a shade more alert, a degree more passionate all round. The disc is highly recommendable nonetheless. Calum MacDonald

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