Lutyens: Verses of Love; String Trio; Fantasie Trio; Présages; Motet; Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis etc

COMPOSERS: Lutyens
LABELS: NMC
ALBUM TITLE: Lutyens
WORKS: Verses of Love; String Trio; Fantasie Trio; Présages; Motet; Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis etc
PERFORMER: Exaudi/James Weeks; Endymion
CATALOGUE NO: NMC D 124
The neglect of Elisabeth Lutyens’s music has been one of the more egregious critical errors of the past quarter-century, and her legacy as an irreducible modernist, post-Webern, post-Stravinsky in aesthetic, comes to seem ever more significant. NMC’s new disc for her centenary year, the programme an enlightening juxtaposition of solos, trios and choral works from her fertile middle period around the early 1960s, is thus timely and poignantly welcome.

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Here are almost physically flinty pieces like the aggressive Wind Trio, probably unplayed since its 1963 premiere, and the defiantly unorthodox Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis; works of philosophic intensity, like the masterly Wittgenstein motet; utterances of desolate melancholy, as in the solo oboe Presages written after the death of her husband Edward Clark; and of romantic warmth as in Verses of Love to words by Ben Jonson. Only the Boethius motet The Country of the Stars has been previously recorded.

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With 31 tracks this CD highlights Lutyens’s gift for building large-ish forms out of chains of miniatures, simultaneously lapidary and passionate. The singers and players of Exaudi and Endymion turn in eloquent, dedicated performances in first-rate sound, making every note – as Lutyens intended – count. Now, will some generous company issue her archetypal ’60s vaudeville Time Off? Not the Ghost of a Chance! Calum MacDonald