Works by Kerry Andrew, Helen Grime, Soosan Lolaver, C Schumann et al
The Hermes Experiment: Héloïse Werner (soprano), Oliver Pashley (clarinet), Anne Denholm (harp), Marianne Schofield (double bass)
Delphian DCD 34274 73:45 mins
The second album from this ground-breaking contemporary chamber group is beautifully produced, with lavish, informative liner notes. Through this recital, the ensemble argues for song – in all its forms – as a ‘site of heightened emotion’. The repertoire includes the appealing opening, Olivia Chaney’s ‘Roman Holiday’, and the fiercely rhythmic ‘Draw the Line’ by Ayanna Witter-Johnson. Helen Grime’s ‘Council Offices’ acquires even greater pathos in this sensitive reorchestration, although Héloïse Werner’s dispassionate approach is unexpected. Soosan Lolavar’s ‘Mâh Didam’ bridges Iranian music and Renaissance counterpoint.
Jeremy Thurlow’s three Quiet Songs are delicately shaded and tenderly performed. Kerry Andrews’s Fruit Songs (plum, blackberry, cherry and apple), arranged by harpist Anne Denholm, make a delicious set, showcasing the group’s percussive abilities, timbral virtuosity and expressive warmth. Emily Hall’s setting of Toby Litt’s ‘Befalling’ is a moving finish.
Familiar music re-emerges transformed. The surface of Werner’s rendition of Strozzi’s ‘Tradimento!’ is disrupted by rough interjections, while the spacious reorchestration of Clara Schumann’s ‘Liebst du um Schönheit’ acquires almost Mahlerian pathos. The light-filled arrangements of Lili Boulanger’s ‘Reflets’ and ‘Attente’ surpass even the originals.
Werner’s unselfconscious, flexible voice is at ease throughout the stylistic range, albeit retaining a distinctively instrumental quality. The talk which introduces ‘A Photograph’ felt a little long, although it merges neatly into the song’s opening.
These formidable chamber musicians range effortlessly through the centuries and around the globe, recognising no stylistic boundaries. Their mesmerising soundworld is supported by a glowing, open acoustic, dazzlingly pure intonation and seamless timbral interplay between voice and instruments. An immersive, thought provoking and sensual experience.