ALBUM TITLE: Turnage
WORKS: Twice Through the Heart; The Torn Fields; Hidden Love Song
PERFORMER: Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano), Gerald Finley (baritone), Martin Robertson (saxophone); London PO/Marin Alsop
CATALOGUE NO: 31
Mark-Anthony Turnage is one of the few living composers who has a melodic style which manages to be edgily contemporary and elegant at the same time. In Hidden Love Song the soprano saxophone’s lyricism has that slightly acrid urban feel that typifies so much of Turnage’s best work, and yet it also has a natural shapeliness, and it’s full of phrases that lodge in the memory. There are similar moments in Twice Through the Heart, a setting of genuinely unsettling poems by Jackie Kay about a bullied and physically abused wife. The refrain-like ‘There’s no way out’ in the first song has the force of a knife-stroke. But the vocal writing doesn’t all have the unforced ‘rightness’ of the saxophone lines in Hidden Love Song. In fact there were times when I wondered – and not for the first time with Turnage – whether his lyricism isn’t on the whole more instrumental than vocal. Full marks to Sarah Conolly and Gerald Finley for the conviction they bring to the two song cycles, but The Torn Fields leaves the same lingering doubts as Twice Through the Heart. Excellent sound quality: until the audience start clapping at the end of Hidden Love Song you’d hardly guess this was live recording.