Classical home listening: Golda Schultz’s This Be Her Verse; Orion Weiss’s Arc 1
The South African soprano’s celebration of five venerable female composers; and the first entry in the pianist’s trilogy of world war-adjacent works.
The South African soprano Golda Schultz won an instant following after her appearance at the Last Night of the Proms in the lockdown-truncated 2020 season. Despite the oddness of the event, she handled it joyfully and graciously. Her new album with pianist Jonathan Ware, This Be Her Verse (Alpha Classics), confirms her versatility and musical intelligence. The recital consists of songs by five female composers, from the romantics Emilie Mayer (1812-1883) and Clara Schumann (1819-1896), to the mid-century adventurers, Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979) and Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979) to the present: the South African composer-pianist Kathleen Tagg (b. 1977). Schultz and Ware rise to the challenge of every style, from Mayer’s urgent Der Erlkönig to Clarke’s wistful Down by the Salley Gardens. The album’s title is from a new song cycle by Tagg, to texts by Lila Palmer. Commissioned by Schultz, they are deft, upbeat, sharp and true, a celebration of the single bed and clean sheets.
Chromatic and disturbing, Alexander Scriabin’s single-movement Piano Sonata No 9 Op 68 (1913) soon acquired the nickname “Black Mass”. (He didn’t object, having already named his seventh sonata “White Mass”.) The American pianist Orion Weiss has included this mesmerising work in Arc I (First Hand Records), the first of three albums relating to the prelude and aftermath of the first and second world wars. The opening work is Granados’s ambitious Goyescas Op 11 (1911). Weiss makes light of these six fiercely difficult movements about love and death, built on scraps of ideas shaped into complex and poetic material. In contrast, Janáček’s In the Mists (1912), a cycle of four short pieces, is spare and compact, inward looking, steeped in folk melody, unpredictable. “More like entries in a wild diary than character pieces”, as Weiss writes. The Scriabin, with its feral threats and spectres, concludes this rich and thought-provoking album. Arc II, now keenly awaited, promises Ravel, Shostakovich and Brahms.
Ideal lunchtime listening this coming week: four recitals from the Belfast Music Society international festival of chamber music 2022 recorded at the Great Hall, Queen’s University. This year’s performers include the Trio Gaspard from Berlin and Ukrainian pianist Vadym Kholodenko. Tuesday to Friday, 1pm, BBC Radio 3 or on BBC Sounds.
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