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Song Offerings: British Song Cycles

Riot Ensemble (Coviello Contemporary)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Song Offerings – British Song Cycles
Works by Harvey, Samantha Fernando, Aaron Holloway-Nahum & Laurence Osborn
Riot Ensemble
Coviello Contemporary COV91924   58.16 mins


From eccentric, pioneering taxonomy to erotic-spiritual devotion via meditations on Alzheimer’s and the poetry of ambivalence, Riot Ensemble’s Song Offerings finds complementary ground in very different works by four British composers.

The title comes from Jonathan Harvey’s ravishing 1985 song cycle on poems by Tagore. It’s the final work on a thoughtfully conceived album, serving as both culmination and anchor in a way that quietly honours the legacy of this much-missed elder (1939-2012). As a woman yearns for her lover/god to the point of joyful dissolving into death, soprano Sarah Dacey and ensemble prove in languorous accord under conductor Aaron Holloway-Nahum. Here and throughout a sense of metaphysical suggestion underlies kaleidoscopic colour and changing moods.

Short songs by Samantha Fernando set and re-set the allusive thread with ‘How Many Moments’ (EE Cummings), ‘Utterance’ (her words) and ‘The Half Moon’ (Christina Rossetti). These interweave ‘Hollow-Nahum’s Plane Sailing’ – which feels anything but in a poignant setting of Sasha Dugdale’s poem about Alzheimer’s – and Laurence Osborn’s ‘Micrographia’, utilising soprano duo (the forces joined by April Frederick). This lithe, witty piece refracts (via poet Joseph Minden) Hooke’s 1665 treatise describing objects viewed through a microscope. Steph Power