Nyman: 8 Lust Songs: I sonetti lussariosi

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COMPOSERS: Nyman
LABELS: MN Records
ALBUM TITLE: Nyman
WORKS: 8 Lust Songs: I sonetti lussariosi
PERFORMER: Marie Angel (soprano); Michael Nyman Band
CATALOGUE NO: MNRCD 114

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The Lust Songs are Michael Nyman’s most intensely lyrical and absorbing pieces, as far removed from English smut as Peter Greenaway’s films from the Carry On series. They represent eroticism in the grand manner, setting Pietro Aretino’s explicit 16th-century sonnets inspired by equally graphic engravings, which the booklet reproduces. Marie Angel amused the London premiere audience by calling the texts ‘much of a muchness’, but her perceptive booklet essay confounds any such idea. Nyman draws out personality with a poet’s imagination and a fitting variety of pace and rhythm. Vocal lines and string filigrees soar across the barlines while the band pulses away. Time is made gradually to slow, eased by the spacious ecstasy of Angel’s delivery and counterpointed by sharp characterisation – she takes male and female roles in a shared embrace that transcends gender. Mozart 252 is for people like me who find Nyman’s In re Don Giovanni so catchy they have to play it again straight away, since the CD includes three versions of it. Then there’s the Greenaway film score Drowning by Numbers, drawn entirely from the Sinfonia Concertante, K364, like an obsessional set of variations on a chord sequence, with one item stringing together the appoggiatura moments. Letters, Riddles and Writs puts splendidly sung vocal duets over sparky deconstructed opera and quartet extracts. Robert Maycock