MICHAEL HURD (1928-2006): This Day to Man for Chorus, Winds and Strings, A Song for St Cecilia for Chorus and Orchestra, The Phoenix and the Turtle for Mezzo-Soprano, Chorus, Strings and Timpani, Music’s Praise for Chorus and String Orchestra, A Choral Cantata for Soprano, Chorus, Brass, Timpani and Organ (Sarah Mapplebeck [soprano], Marta Fontanals-Simmons [mezzo], Hertfordshire Chorus, London Orchestra da Camera; David Temple), Songs: 4 Early Songs, the Night Swans, Carmina Amoris, The Day’s Alarm, 3 Songs of Robert Graves, The Ride by Night (Benjamin Hulett [tenor], Marcus Farnsworth [baritone], Simon Lepper [piano]).
Catalogue Number: 04T060
Description: This set amply confirms the impression given by Hurd's splendid Venetian opera, The Aspern Papers (03R061); he was a major composer of works for large forces, especially with voices. His idiom is tonal and conservative, but full of exquisite subtleties of harmony, and his mastery of word-setting and creating exactly the right atmosphere to highlight the text is virtually unmatched even within the rich, deep traditions of English choral music. He enjoyed setting early poets, and finding relatively obscure ones whose output was not markedly inferior to better-known names, and he does just this in the eloquent, communicative and varied set of carols This Day to Man. The settings of Dryden's A Song for St Cecilia, dramatically illustrating the many musical references in the poem (and containing a dissonant passage worthy of Havergal Brian as a kind of Dies irae reference, thus proving that Hurd had this sort of thing among his resources when he chose to use it), and the powerful and mysterious interpretation of Shakespeare's The Phoenix and the Turtle, with its disquieting metaphysical imagery, are particular highlights of the choral disc, but everything here is of the highest quality, and the grandly ceremonial Choral Cantata provides an exultant finish. The solo songs are intimate and eloquent, with elegant and characterful vocal lines and sophisticated but simple and unobtrusive accompaniments. 2 CDs. Texts included.