ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Songs from the Exotic
PERFORMER: Polly May (mezzo-soprano); Lucy Walker (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: DCD 34002 (distr. 0131 346 8019; www.delphianrecords.co.uk)
To awaken intense emotion through the creation of new sonorities which would themselves arise from ‘the primitive spirit of music’: this was the philosophy of Manuel de Falla, and all those composers who, in the last two centuries, have sought to reinvent folk musics within their own art-music. This imaginative and enterprising recital displays Falla’s own way – incorporating elements of folk music into his own
inventions – next to Rodrigo’s settings of folksongs proper. And it goes on to contrast Judith Weir’s Songs from the Exotic, as they metamorphose the timbres of Russian and Bulgarian singers within settings of Serbian poetry, with Luciano Berio’s aromatic ‘analyses’ of folksongs from Sicily and Genoa.
The musky, warm mezzo-soprano of Polly May, and the robust piano-playing of Lucy Walker, both graduates of Edinburgh University, are well-suited to this earthy repertoire; and their fearless performances are enhanced by a resonant recording acoustic. May’s voice could do with a little more limbering up to achieve more agility for the dance rhythms of Falla and Rodrigo, and her singing needs to be animated by a more variegated and finely nuanced vocal palette. But there is much to enjoy
in this fresh and courageous venture. Hilary Finch