LABELS: Black Box
WORKS: The Dark Labyrinth; Des fins sont des commencements; On this Bleak Hut
PERFORMER: Alison Wells (soprano), Nicholas Sears (tenor), Timothy Gill (cello); Gemini
CATALOGUE NO: BBM 1038
Firstly, a plea to Black Box from a myopic reviewer who has hitherto suffered silently: your design concept is good, but in the packaging of your otherwise exemplary product, please rethink the size and/or font style of your booklet notes, at present quite unreadable by all but the sharpest eyed.
And the words do matter, not least in the three vocal works by Philip Grange on this recent release. Their texts – by Edward Thomas in On this Bleak Hut and As It Was, and RL Stevenson in A Puzzle of Shadows – are familiar enough to lovers of English verse. The point of interest lies in how Grange succeeds or fails (views here may differ) in fusing the disparate tones of his own distinctive style and the Victorian and Georgian echoes of his chosen poets.
Disjunction may, indeed, be the first impression of these performances, for all the vibrant playing of the Gemini ensemble, and committed singing of the vocal soloists. A sense that words and notes are fused, not yoked together, comes with repeated hearings. Purely instrumental, In Spectre Search and The Dark Labyrinth offer more immediate approaches, their titles well-chosen to reflect the nervous, edgy aspects of Grange’s music. Nicholas Williams