JUDITH WEIR (b.1954): 3 Chorales for Cello and Piano, O Viridissima for Piano Trio, The Bagpiper’s String Trio, Day Break Shadows Flee for Piano, Airs from another Planet for Ensemble, Songs: Nuits d’Afrique, Really? (Ailish Tynan [soprano]).
Catalogue Number: 11V064
Description: An entertaining and accessible collection of smaller pieces by Weir, showcasing her musical wit, fondness for storytelling, and deft adaptations of the music of her Scottish roots. And for the integration of music from other times and places; Nuits d'Afrique sets poems by female poets from Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire and Congo, nostalgic, exotic and in one case (the song about the crocodile that just wants to be friends and can’t stand the sight of blood), cleverly humorous. A lullaby and a village idyll bracket mysterious drums in the forest, and the vegetarian crocodile. The work was conceived as a companion piece to Ravel’s Chansons madécasses, and Gallic elegance and color accompany the French texts. The characterful Chorales portray angelic harps, the valley of the shadow of death and serene religious contemplation with a fine and sensitive feeling for instrumental color and, in the latter case, spinning serene variations on a lovely melody by St Hildegard von Bingen. O Viridissima, also after a hymn by St Hildegard, is more of a transcription for modern ensemble of her monodic melody, with harmonies that lightly embellish the original while remaining respectful of its purity. Humor and Scottishness combine in the Airs from Another Planet (great title too, eh Herr Schoenberg?), which imagines what a Strathspey and Reel, Jig, and bagpipe music might evolve into in generations removed from their terrestrial origins by space travel. Clever tweaking of science fiction otherworldly sororities and minimalism blend with half-forgotten traditions in this delightful suite. The piano work Day Break Shadows Flee is a pianistically inventive fantasy-nocturne, with surprising similarities to a composer who shares Weir's Scots ancestry but is more commonly associated with the piano, Ronald Stevenson. The Bagpiper's trio is a tiny instrumental micro-opera, somehow managing to vividly illustrate the sad tale of a piper executed after the Battle of Culloden as a combatant on the grounds that his bagpipes were a weapon, as they always led the regiment into battle. Heroism, the landscape and mists of Scotland and a heartfelt lament are all portrayed in seven minutes of chamber music. Not many composers would attempt such a thing. Texts and translations included. Hebrides Ensemble.