The Shining River

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Argento,Berlioz,Britten,Copland,R Strauss,Vaughan Williams
LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: The Shining River
WORKS: Songs
PERFORMER: Susan Chilcott (soprano), Iain Burnside (piano)


This disc is more than a testimony to Susan Chilcott, the British soprano who died ten years ago at the age of only 40, her strong, supple voice packed with beauty, character and potential. It is also a testimony to her close musical friendship with the pianist Iain Burnside. He was Chilcott’s accompanist for the programme of Copland songs that was released shortly after her death and is reproduced here, and for the Brussels recital from which the previously unreleased live recordings of Strauss’s Wie erkenn’ ich mein Treulieb vor andern nun?, Berlioz’s La mort d’Ophélie, Argento’s Winter and RVW’s Orpheus with his Lute that complete this CD are drawn.

Brussels had become Chilcott’s musical home. In the two encores from that recital, ‘Calypso’ from Britten’s Cabaret Songs and a reprise of Copland’s lullaby, The Pretty Horses, we hear both her sharp humour and her tenderness, the last song being one ‘that I sing to my four-year-old son’. Scratch away the loss and grief – a difficult job – and what you hear is a performance of fierce intelligence and wit, a voice that takes flight gloriously both in the simplicity of Copland’s Old American Songs and the literary complexity and gnarled emotions of his 12 Poems of Emily Dickinson. It is also a recital in which Burnside, often reserved in his expression, shines, in the migraine thud of Copland’s ‘I Felt a Funeral In My Brain’, the fretfulness of the Strauss, the feverish shudder of the Berlioz.


Anna Picard