WORKS: The Valley of Hatsu-se; Lament of Isis on the Death of Osiris; Requiescat; Chamber Concerto No. 1; Six Tempi for Ten Instruments; Triolet 1; Triolet 2
PERFORMER: Jane Manning (soprano); Jane’s Minstrels/Roger Montgomery
CATALOGUE NO: 011 DDD
The neglect of Elisabeth Lutyens through much of her lifetime is one of the shaming aspects of British musical life in this century, the product of a lethal mixture of misogyny and conservatism. Ten years after her death, the collection of vocal and ensemble pieces brought together by NMC may start the process of recognition – not just of a feisty, strong-minded composer who ploughed a lone modernist furrow in an artistic community that hardly dared to look beyond its own shores, but of a catalogue of works that has much to offer in its own right.
Following through the roughly chronological sequence on this disc demonstrates the artistic integrity of Lutyens’s music and its intellectual toughness – there is no easy listening here, yet all the pieces have a laconic, elegant shape and a deep expressive purpose. The early First Chamber Concerto, a serial work written in 1940 when serialism was barely known in Britain, maps out the territory that would be so beautifully explored in the Six Tempi for Ten Instruments of 1957, and again in the two sets of Triolet, the miniatures that Lutyens wrote on her deathbed.
It is always as an instrumental composer that Lutyens seems most distinctive; her vocal writing (in three works here, rather tremulously sung by Jane Manning) is less striking. But the authority, and the creative voice, are never to be doubted. Andrew Clements