ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Animal Heaven
WORKS: Harper, Cresswell, Leighton, Beamish, RB Williams & D Johnson
PERFORMER: Alison Wells (soprano), John Turner (recorder) Keith Elcombe (harpsichord), Jonathan Price (cello)
CATALOGUE NO: MSV CD 92036
This collection of songs by British (or British-based) composers written over the last two decades explores various permutations of soprano, recorder(s), harpsichord and cello. The cramped recording does not help soloist Alison Wells’s diction, but while occasionally sounding stretched elsewhere she impresses in Sally Beamish’s imaginative Four Findrinny Songs. Their title refers to an alloy of silver and gold, and Donald Goodbrand Saunders’s straightforward poems have, as the composer explains, strong Scottish overtones that she has been able to capitalise on.
Kenneth Leighton’s intricate settings of Whitman and James Dickey (it’s from the latter that the collection’s overall title derives) are distinguished, and Edward Harper’s evocative Lights Out (to First World War poems by Edward Thomas) well crafted, but David Johnson’s comic parable of human and animal life, God, Man and the Animals, is inclined to be garrulous. New-Zealand born Lyell Cresswell provides a tiny but haunting setting of a Maori prayer in memory of contemporary music specialist Tracey Chadwell, and Roger Bevan Williams’s Edward Lear settings (with a wispy lullaby stuck in the middle) are good fun. Notable contributions from the other musicians in an unusual programme for an intriguing combination of voice and instruments. George Hall