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Elisabeth LUTYENS (1906-1983)
Quincunx (after Sir Thomas Browne) for baritone, soprano and orchestra op. 44 (1960) [24:14]
And Suddenly it’s Evening Op. 66 for tenor and chamber ensemble (to words by Salvatore Quasimodo) (1966) [23:52]
David BEDFORD (b.1937)

Music for Albion Moonlight (Kenneth Patchen) for soprano, flute, clarinet, melodica, piano, violin, cello (1965) [29:10]
Josephine Nendick (soprano); John Shirley-Quirk (baritone); BBC Symphony Orchestra/Norman Del Mar (Quincunx)
Herbert Handt (tenor/director); Members of the BBC Symphony Orchestra (And Suddenly)
Jane Manning (soprano); Members of the BBC Symphony Orchestra/John Carewe (Bedford)
rec. November 1968, Kingsway Hall, originally released on Argo LP ZRG 622 (Lutyens - rec 3,4 6 Jan 1969 first released 1969) with Maw Scenes and Arias. Argo LP ZRG638 (And Suddenly; Bedford - rec 20-21 May 1969 West Hampstead Studio 3 first released 1970). ADD
LYRITA SRCD.265 [77.25]

Experience Classicsonline


Lutyens and Bedford share one of Lyrita's most generously packed ex-British Council anthologies.

Wyastone Estates are making a clean sweep of the Argo-British Council archive which was bought outright by the perspicacious Richard Itter and is now being issued to a new audience. There's a certain irony in the situation. The works here are from the Furthest North of Northernness so far as contemporary music is concerned. Lyrita were, at the time of the issue of these works, the standard-bearer for the return of a generation of British lyricists and romantics. Argo, on the other hand, bore high the composers lionised by the 1960s avant-garde establishment. Now both extremes and much in between find homes on the same label.

Quincunx celebrates fracture and dissonance in a shuddering concatenation of shrapnel and discontinuous asides. Lutyens was drawn to the words of Sir Thomas Browne whose book Hydriotaphia also inspired William Alwyn in his very different Fifth Symphony. The ten mosaic-diminutive movements lead us through shuddering eerie groves that suggest an anteroom to Death. Shirley-Quirk is suitably grave as he pursues the curves and anxious shivers of Lutyens' precisely weighted writing. The soprano provides a wordless ululation to accentuate the stilly might that is the sixth section of this work.

And Suddenly it's Evening was written for, and premiered at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. The much-filtered model is Monteverdi's madrigals and Gabrielli's canzonas. Again the writing is very precise and carefully balanced with texture at the pin-sharp focus. Handt, who both sings and directs the ensemble, has to negotiate the angularities of Lutyens’ writing which again is full of incident and action. The four Quasimodo poems (as translated by Jack Bevan) are separately tracked.

David Bedford's Music for Albion Moonlight is the stuff of nightmare. The images and shrieking weirdness, speech mixed cheek-by-jowl with juddering, croaking and fragmented violence are in tempo and in mood with the four poems by Kenneth Patchen. Jane Manning is well practised and well attuned to such scores. In the 1960s and 1970s she helped carry forward the revolution in collaboration, accomplishment and execution. There is fascination here as well but it can be hard-going and you need to be in the right frame of mind - whatever that is. Time for a quote from the second poem: "The giggling of pimps in a hangman's bed/Are the only songs I know."

The technical side is handled with exemplary care by Lyrita and by remastering engineer and all-round wizard Simon Gibson.

The unsurprisingly excellent notes are by Paul Conway and the words of all three pieces are reproduced in the booklet.

This the toughest going so far from Lyrita in music drawing on the crystalline yet rugged style of the 1970s avant-garde. Historically important then but an unforgiving terrain made less inaccessible by the evident technical eminence and sympathy of the performers.

Rob Barnett


Also available:-
SRCD.214 Box of Delights – Lutyens’ En Voyage
SRCD.267 Nicholas Maw Scenes & Arias




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