Bawden

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bawden
LABELS: NMC
WORKS: The Sailor’s Tale; The Donkey Dances; Two Studies; Beasts of the Sea
PERFORMER: Alexander Grove, Flora McIntosh, Andrew Heggie; Children of Alderman Peel High School, Norfolk, Creakes Sinfonia/Gary Cheung, BBC NO of Wales, Nash Ensemble/Rupert Bawden
CATALOGUE NO: D 093
The first item on this disc, the orchestral Two Studies, promises well. Rupert Bawden tells us that this lush and surprisingly melodious music started life as an ‘imaginary ballet’ on the Tristan legend – one that he might develop at full length one day. I strongly hope he does. I wish I could be as enthusiastic about the main work recorded here, The Sailor’s Tale, a single-act opera about Horatio Nelson’s painful progress to maturity and heroism. Surely an opera has to convince the listener that something essential in its story, and in the emotions it contains, can only be expressed in music – more to the point, that it has to be sung. But listening to what seemed like long stretches of spoken conversational English against a more or less interesting musical background I kept wondering what was the point of the exercise. Worst of all, the lyricism so evident in Bawden’s Two Studies seems to have deserted him when it comes to vocal writing, while there’s too little of the zest for instrumental colour shown in The Donkey Dances. The performers work hard to bring it off, but the experience falls flat. Stephen Johnson

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