Child: Tableaux 1 & 2; Concerto for harpsichord and string quartet; Sing Song Merry Diggle: A Playground Cantata

COMPOSERS: Child
LABELS: Lorelt
ALBUM TITLE: Child
WORKS: Tableaux 1 & 2; Concerto for harpsichord and string quartet;
Sing Song Merry Diggle:
A Playground Cantata

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PERFORMER: Maggie Cole (harpsichord);
BBC Singers (Women’s Voices);
Lontano/Odaline de la Martinez

CATALOGUE NO: LNT 125
Peter Child – British-born, in 1953, but a long-time resident of New England – describes his main artistic impulse as ‘a desire for inclusiveness, to embrace musical opposites’. But that risks pieces not holding together at all. For example, the long central movement of the sextet Tableaux I, a spare, intense ‘Elegy’ written at the time of the first Gulf War, is followed by a short jazzy finale which seems no more than a resigned shrug of the shoulders. Tableaux II strikes a much better balance between contrasting but not warring moods and textures. But the Concerto for harpsichord and string quartet, commissioned by a dying friend as his own memorial, is an uneasy sequence of four-square lullaby, chorale prelude, scherzo and truncated elegy.

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All three chamber works are expertly played, though the recording sounds very hard and bright. And in Sing Song Merry Diggle the women of the BBC Singers add their own gleeful contribution – even if children’s voices might have been more appropriate in this setting of (by now rather quaint-sounding) playground rhymes. It’s a jolly and entertaining piece, but it leaves me little the wiser in forming an overall impression of the composer. It’s child-like, but is it Child-like? Anthony Burton