Rubbra/Lennox Berkeley/Howells

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Rubbra/Lennox Berkeley/Howells
WORKS: Nocturne for Harp; Prelude No. 1 for Harp
PERFORMER: Tracey Chadwell (soprano), Danielle Perrett (harp), Timothy Gill (cello)
The death of Tracey Chadwell at 36 robbed us of one of the most touching interpreters of English solo song, and lends a valedictory poignance to this ravishingly beautiful collection of Edmund Rubbra’s songs and chamber works.


This disc confirms that Rubbra (1901-86) was a lyricist of the front rank, who easily holds his own beside Tippett, Britten and the cream of the present rising generation of composers.

Rubbra himself was once a young turk. By scarcely 21 he had composed two of the most exquisite medieval-inspired songs in the entire repertory – A Hymn to the Virgin and Jesukin, both sung to harp accompaniment.

Much as Chadwell’s singing – recorded, alas, a fraction too resonantly – cheers this disc, it is Danielle Perrett’s stunning solo harp playing which offers the deepest insight into Rubbra’s serene, pure writing. Pezzo ostinato and Transformations mesmerise like an Indian raga. Fukagawa (Deep River) – composed to accompany a Japanese Noh play in 1929 – is a miniature masterpiece.


Yet not even Herbert Howells’s beautiful harp Prelude, dating from 1915, is as tear-jerking as ‘Farewell to a Buddhist Priest’, the final song in Rubbra’s entrancing Chinese cycle The Jade Mountain. Chadwell’s fragile boat, like the priest’s, has indeed ‘returned to its source’. This fabulous disc stands as her epitaph. Roderic Dunnett