He prayeth best that loveth best

ancientmarinerI’m not sure how I’ve not come across the music of Howard Skempton before but it took a flyer for a disk with a setting of The Ancient Mariner to get my attention.  I’m fascinated by what contemporary composers do with the broadly defined field of art song and Skempton’s piece is really interesting.  He sets a mildly abridged version of the Coleridge but there’s enough to last past the half hour mark.  The vocal writing is tonal, rhythmic and declamatory; hardly song at all in a way, but it supports the text rather well.  It’s sung here by baritone Roderick Williams, for whom the piece was written.  He has a clear, bright voice and the setting tends towards the upper end of the baritone range.  He also has superb diction in the manner of the best of the “English school”.  The result is complete comprehensibility for the text and full value for every word.

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