M Harris, Martin, Sametz, MŠntyjŠrvi, N Lindberg, Argento, Murray & Vaughan Williams

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COMPOSERS: Argento,M Harris,Mäntyjärvi,Martin,Murray & Vaughan Williams,N Lindberg,Sametz
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Shakespeare in Song
WORKS: Works by M Harris, Martin, Sametz, Mäntyjärvi, N Lindberg, Argento, Murray & Vaughan Williams
PERFORMER: Phoenix Bach Choir/Charles Bruffy
CATALOGUE NO: CHSA 5031
Shakespeare is always a safe bet for planners of song recitals or choral programmes: but this selection of a cappella settings from the 20th and 21st centuries is fresh and enjoyable. An especially welcome item, not otherwise in the current catalogue, is Frank Martin’s Songs of Ariel, settings of songs and speeches from The Tempest in imaginatively varied textures. Martin’s ‘Full fathom five’, though, is outdone by Vaughan Williams’s magical tintinnabulations in the first of his Three Shakespeare Songs. Four Songs by the Finn Jaakko Mäntyjärvi show a subtle harmonic sense, and, in the witches’ spell from Macbeth, considerable metrical and textural ingenuity. A group of Shakespeare Songs by the American Matthew Harris offers some pleasant easy listening, with a few bluesy touches. Miniatures include a delightful close-harmony ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ by the veteran Swedish jazz pianist Nils Lindberg. The Phoenix Bach Choir, a two-dozen-strong professional chamber choir based in Phoenix, Arizona, sings with precise chording and a smoothly rounded if rather shallow sound, most effective in quiet music, though at the cost of some clarity of text. A resonant church acoustic doesn’t help the words, either, but (certainly in stereo) adds an attractive bloom. Anthony Burton

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