Payne: Phoenix Mass

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COMPOSERS: Anthony Payne
ALBUM TITLE: Payne: Phoenix Mass
WORKS: Phoenix Mass; Paean; The World’s Winter; Horn Trio
PERFORMER: Jane Manning (soprano); Susan Bradshaw (piano); BBC Singers; Philip Jones Brass Ensemble/John Poole; The Nash Ensemble/Lionel Friend; Horn Trio; Jane’s Minstrels


If you only know Anthony Payne through his excellent realisation of Elgar’s Third Symphony, his own music may come as a surprise, especially the early works on this disc. His first acknowledged score, Phoenix Mass, marks the beginnings of his personal response to the rigours of postwar modernism, tempered by his writing for a school choir. It throws together the noble austerity of Stravinsky’s Mass with the freneticism of early Maxwell Davies.

Written for, and performed here by, pianist Susan Bradshaw, Paean is a more virtuosic work in every respect, hard-edged, but with a flourish. The World’s Winter was a tenth anniversary present for his wife, the singer Jane Manning, and marks Payne’s reconciliation of the modernist aesthetic with the late Romanticism that inspired him in his youth. The result is riveting.

These early works are transferred from 1977 LPs as the original masters could not be found. In the circumstances, the sound quality is better than might be expected, but the Mass is woolly, compounding some insecure intonation from the BBC Singers, while the piano in Paean is slightly distorted and occasionally honkytonk in timbre. The gorgeous Horn Trio from 2006 completes a fascinating collection.


Christopher Dingle