ALBUM TITLE: Maw,Milner
WORKS: Maw: Scenes and Arias
Milner: Salutatio Angelica, Op. 1;
PERFORMER: Jane Manning, Felicity Palmer (soprano), Anne Howells (mezzo-soprano),
Norma Proctor, Alfreda Hodgson (contralto), Robert Tear (tenor); BBC SO/Norman Del Mar; London Sinfonietta & Chorus/David Atherton
CATALOGUE NO: SRCD.267 ADD Reissue
It’s good to see some of the recordings sponsored by the British Council reappearing: bought en bloc by Lyrita some years ago, most remained in limbo. None was as sorely missed as Maw’s Scenes and Arias, a setting of an early 14th-century love poem, with three female voices ecstatically intertwining above a lush orchestral texture. The comparison with Der Rosenkavalier has often been made, but in the interludes, Maw is quite capable of giving the equivalent of a cold shower, with shades of Tippett in the writing. This is the only recording there has ever been, and it’s possible to imagine it done differently, but not better: the singers lovingly caress their lines, and Del Mar inspires the orchestra to heights of precision and commitment in what isn’t an easy score. The recording is as rich and detailed as many of the Argo releases from the 1960s.
Next to Maw, Milner’s more conservative musical style seems emotionally reined in. It’s much more English in its contrapuntal clarity, and, although the vocal lines have a lyrical beauty, there isn’t the generous outpouring that made Scenes and Arias a piece that just had to be written. That’s especially the case in Salutation Angelica – Roman Spring, the later of the two works, has more freedom of imagination. Again, the performances and recording are all one could desire. Martin Cotton