Seven Sisters: Chamber Music by British Women

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COMPOSERS: Beamish,Dussek,Ellicott,Mcdowall,Pook,Smyth and Dring
LABELS: Ambache
ALBUM TITLE: Seven Sisters: Chamber Music by British Women
WORKS: Works by McDowall, Ellicott, Pook, Beamish, Dussek, Smyth and Dring
PERFORMER: Anthony Robb (flute), Jeremy Polmear (oboe, cor anglais), Neyire Ashworth (clarinet, bass clarinet), Julie Andrews (bassoon), David Juritz (violin), Louise Williams (viola), Rebecca Knight (cello), Diana Ambache (piano)


Pianist Diana Ambache and her fine team present an eclectic selection of short works by seven women composers (hence the album’s punning title) – with no two exactly alike in style. The two 19th-century chamber pieces, for instance, are a charming salon-style work by the little-known Rosalind Ellicott, whose expressive lyricism recalls that of Franck; and Ethel Smyth’s eventful Cello Sonata in A minor. Hers is a broodingly Brahms-like masterpiece that has already been recorded a number of times, yet this performance is most convincing of all in revealing the work’s eloquence, simply by respecting Smyth’s tempo headings.

The two most overtly programmatic works both date from the past 20 years: Cecilia McDowall’s Le temps viendra imagines Anne Boleyn’s psychological state days before her execution, circulating static musical ideas in the manner of Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments, though without its cumulative power; Jocelyn Pook’s Wonderland evokes a sense of wonder inspired by the view from Mount Everest’s peak, holding attention through its beautiful quasi-orchestral colours. Mozart’s near-contemporary, Sophia Dussek, is represented by an attractive but rather short-winded Violin Sonata in D; Madeleine Dring’s 1960s Trio is light-hearted Gallic-style fun; and Sally Beamish’s Songs and Blessings a duskily atmospheric work with particularly attractive music for her instrument, the viola.


Daniel Jaffé