Splendidly played by Simon Callaghan and Hiroaki Takenouchi

Splendidly played by Simon Callaghan and Hiroaki Takenouchi

MusicWeb International, John Quinn

This disc was issued in late 2018 to mark the 90th birthday of Thea Musgrave (born 27 May 1928). Lyrita has previously done this composer proud with a release devoted to several of her orchestral scores, albeit in performances set down in the 1970s, and also, more recently, a live performance from 1978 of her opera, Mary Queen of Scots (1977). The present recordings, however, are brand new and the works chosen are quite recent.

The longest offering is the song cycle Poets in Love. This consists of seventeen songs which are intended to be performed without a break. Musgrave selected a very wide range of poems in which the poets offer a variety of views and reflections on love. The chosen authors include Robert Burns, Goethe, Hölderlin, Rilke, Shakespeare, Shelley and Tasso. An interesting feature of the score is that with one exception each poem is set in its original language – though it is permissible for the singers to use English translations if necessary, though that’s not done here. So, the listener hears settings in seven languages: English, French, German, Italian, Latin, Russian and Spanish …

Eight of the songs are set as duets for the two singers and in one more, a setting of Goethe’s Zeitmass for baritone, the tenor joins in, singing several times the last line of the preceding poem. The other songs are solos for one or other of the singers. The vocal lines are lyrical and expressive and I found the way in which the poems are set was convincing …

The piano parts, splendidly played by Simon Callaghan and Hiroaki Takenouchi, are full of interest and incident.

Because the songs are intended to be performed as a seamless whole Lyrita don’t track them separately. However, they do break them into four groups, which is helpful, and each of these groups is allocated its own track.