My “to watch” pile now consists entirely of older productions of 19th century operas (pretty much the dregs of the Toronto Public Library collection) and the COC season doesn’t start for another six weeks or so. I have one other live performance booked before then; a rather peculiar Handel piece performed in various locations at a local hotel. I’ve been listening to some new CDs then at least partly as a form of procrastination.
The first two were part of an ENO “goody bag” that I scored on Twitter. Songs of Muriel Herbert is a most worthwhile project. Herbert, like so many women composers, has never had the recognition she deserves. Not as “romantic” as a drug addled loon like Peter Warlock I guess. The CD contains thirty six songs setting texts ranging from Peter Abelard to James Joyce. I’d say they stand up well against other early twentieth century English art songs and would be well worth mining by anyone looking for some less well known recital repertory. The works are most sympathetically performed by Ailish Tynan, James Gilchrist and David Owen Norris.
The second ENO freebie is a studio recording of music from Damon Albarn’s Dr. Dee. The reviews I read made this sound like quite a compelling stage show but I have to say I find the music a bit bland. It’s not “operatic” in any conventional sense. Some of it is payed/sung by classically trained musicians but other bits sound more like 70s/80s folk rock occasionally sinking closer to sounding like one of those 70s bands made up of sixth formers from Charterhouse. I’ll have to give it another listen but first impressions were not of music that really stands on its own merits.
The third CD, which I actually bought, is of chamber music by Toronto composer Colin Eatock. I’ve known Colin for years so I’m perhaps not entirely objective but I did enjoy this CD. All six pieces, written between 1987 and 2010 are fairly conventional in form and style but not short of interesting musical invention. I particularly like the Three Canzonas for Brass Quartet performed by the Niagara Brass Ensemble and Tears of Gold; a setting of Blake for mezzo, cello and harpsichord Anita Krause, Thomas Wiebe, Ian Robertson). The CD was produced under the auspices of the Canadian Music Centre and is distributed internationally by Naxos. It’s also available for download on iTunes.
Normal service will be resumed when I next get my hands on something more appealing than an Otto Schenk production of Die Meistersinger.