Clarke: The Cloths of Heaven: songs & chamber works

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COMPOSERS: Clarke
LABELS: Guild
WORKS: The Cloths of Heaven: songs & chamber works
PERFORMER: Patricia Wright (soprano), Jonathan Rees (violin), Kathron Sturrock (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: GMCD 7208 Reissue (1992)
Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979) was Stanford’s first woman composition student, and worked in London as an orchestral and chamber violist before spending the next 40 years in the USA. This selection of her songs shows a sensitive response to English poetry, a flair for piano textures and a modest gift for melody, often modal in the vein of Vaughan Williams. If few of them hit the spot of memorability like the best of, say, Quilter or Howells among her contemporaries, there are songs to texts by Masefield, Yeats and Blake which are certainly well worth reviving.

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On this recording (made in 1992), the New Zealand soprano Patricia Wright deploys a clear and attractive voice, well produced over a wide range, in performances which are consistently sympathetic both to melodic nuance and to words and mood. The pianist Kathron Sturrock is fluent and imaginative, though the slightly unfocused piano sound blurs some of her subtlety. Welcome variety is provided by the violinist Jonathan Rees, who joins Sturrock in a poetic reading of the Impressionistic miniature Midsummer Moon, and partners Wright in arrangements of English and Irish songs which provide some of the disc’s most enjoyable moments. Anthony Burton