Lutyens and Bedford share one
of Lyrita's most generously packed ex-British
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.
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
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
Box of Delights – Lutyens’ En
Nicholas Maw Scenes & Arias