Weir: The Consolations of Scholarship; King Harald’s Saga; Musicians Wrestle Everywhere; Piano Concerto

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COMPOSERS: Weir
LABELS: Albany
ALBUM TITLE: Weir
WORKS: The Consolations of Scholarship; King Harald’s Saga; Musicians Wrestle Everywhere; Piano Concerto
PERFORMER: Janice Felty, Judith Kellock; Xak Bjerken (piano); Ensemble X
CATALOGUE NO: TROY 803
It’s good to discover that Judith Weir’s utterly individual voice, with its worldwide range of references and sophisticated simplicity of utterance, is finding sympathetic interpreters on the other side of the Atlantic. Recorded in Ithaca, NY, this disc presents four representative pieces: King Harald’s Saga (1979), a witty ‘grand opera in three acts’ for an unaccompanied soprano in multiple roles; The Consolations of Scholarship (1985), for an almost equally versatile mezzo and nine players; Musicians Wrestle Everywhere (1994), an exuberant ensemble celebration of urban life; and the Piano Concerto (1997), which deflates the grandiosity of the form in intimate exchanges between the piano and nine strings.

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The two singers, Judith Kellock and Janice Felty, both project with confidence and make their multiple characterisations clear, without perhaps catching every last nuance of narrative tone and attack. Xak Bjerken’s reading of the Piano Concerto is slightly lacking in energy and dynamic contrast compared to William Howard’s on NMC. But the Ithaca-based Ensemble X plays with great spirit and finesse. Co-produced by Weir herself, the recording is first-rate. An excellent introduction to a composer of rare gifts and immediate appeal. Anthony Burton