The Highwayman rides again

Way back in 2016 I attended a concert of Dean Burry’s music in Victoria College Chapel.  The highlight of that evening was a performance by Krisztina Szabó and the Talisker Players with Bill Rowson conducting, of Dean’s setting of Alfred Noyes’ poem The Highwayman. It was performed more recently at Queen’s University, again with Krisztina, backed this time by an ensemble of Queens faculty members (flutist, Sarah Moon, clarinettist, Kornel Wolak, violinist, Gisèle Dalbec-Szczesniak, cellist, Wolf Tormann, pianist, Younggun Kim and conductor, Darrell Christi).  This time it was also accompanied by some cool shadow puppetry.  It was recorded for video and audio and will eventually be released on Centrediscs.  This time it was preceded by chamber music by Debussy, Berg and Beethoven.  The whole thing is available now on Youtube for free.


Here for what it’s worth, is my description of the piece from 2016.  I really haven’t changed my mind…

After the interval we got the big piece of the night; a setting of Alfred Noyes’ The Highwayman for mezzo soprano, flute/piccolo, clarinet/bass clarinet, violin, cello and piano.  It’s a tuppenny shocker of a tale as one might expect; think a gorier version of Jamaica Inn.  Musically it’s quite varied with some parts obviously inspired by Pierrot Lunaire with short, intense sections while at other times it becomes more programmatic which in turn produces a range of styles and moods from overwrought to lyrical.  At the denouement it drops, effectively, into speech.  The accompaniment makes full use of the small band with the piccolo doing duty as a fife and some effective use of bass clarinet.

Once again it got a fine, committed performance.



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