Judith Weir

COMPOSERS: Judith Weir
LABELS: Signum
ALBUM TITLE: Weir: On Buying a Horse
WORKS: On Buying a Horse; Songs from the
Exotic; Scotch Minstrelsy; The Voice
of Desire; King Harald’s Saga;
A Spanish Liederbooklet, etc
PERFORMER: Ailish Tynan (soprano), Susan Bickley
(mezzo-soprano), Andrew Kennedy
(tenor), Iain Burnside (piano)
Judith Weir always seems to stand,


in that lovely phrase of EM Forster

about the poet Cavafy, ‘at a slight

angle to the universe’. And that

applies conspicuously to her songs,

in which vocal lines seemingly

derived from the folk ballads of the

world and familiar-sounding piano

figures never quite cohere into the

phrases and cadences and climaxes

that they imply. But this matches the

elusive fables to which she’s drawn

for many of her texts: not for nothing

does Iain Burnside in an engaging

note call her ‘a magic realist’.

Of the three singers on this disc

from Radio 3’s ‘Voices’ series, Susan

Bickley brings off equally well the

diverse folklore of Songs from the

Exotic, the cycle The Voice of Desire

with its various prescient birds, and

the remarkable unaccompanied

King Harald’s Saga, a three-act

opera with a cast of thousands.

Andrew Kennedy’s light tenor sails

pleasingly through the dark deeds of

Scotch Minstrelsy, but Ailish Tynan

doesn’t quite catch the Iberian

inflections implicit in the vocal


lines of the (delightfully named)

Spanish Liederbooklet. Iain Burnside’s

piano playing is always supportive

and characterful. The recording

occasionally affords the piano more

presence than the voice, but it’s


generally clear.