Unorthodox Music: The Nursery, songs and piano works
Claire Booth (soprano), Christopher Glyn (piano)
Avie AV2457 65:22 mins
A Swedish pianist, top choice for many international singers, told me recently that agents didn’t want piano solos in a song recital. But isn’t that what every intelligent duo should be aspiring to, on disc as well as in the recital hall? Claire Booth and Christopher Glynn have been pioneering this kind of presentation on Avie with three discs to date, putting the composer first: Grainger, Grieg and now Musorgsky, the most maverick of them all.
The surprises come thick and fast: after the very quirky-grotesque Prologue, a song about a demure young girl shocked by a dirty, Satanic billy-goat but unconcerned about marrying his human counterpart, we move through the times of life. The song-cycle The Nursery is an obvious childhood choice, Booth voicing childish prattle and the remonstrations of nanny and mama with vivid character, but it’s enriched by two pieces from Memories of Childhood; the child bashing frenziedly around in a dark cupboard beautifully complements the vocalised stand-in-the-corner number. In the final sequence, called ‘Loneliness’, the catacombs number from Pictures at an Exhibition follows directly on from the song ‘The leaves rustled softly’, about a burial in an oak grove, and the soulful postlude, ‘Reverie’, extends and slightly softens the magisterial gloom of ‘On the River’ from the Sunlesscycle, Booth’s darkest utterance.
Her bright soprano can be a bit squeezed in the more conventional love-lyrics, but revels in the unorthodox, and Glynn ranges the colour-palette too. The presentation is both picture- and text-perfect; classy work all round.