JOSEPH PHIBBS (b.1974): Flex for Piano, Flute, Violin and Cello (Alissa Firsova [piano], Joanna Shaw [flute], Marije Ploemacher [violin], Brian O'Kane [cello]), 2 songs from Shades of Night (Ben Alden [tenor], Andrew Plant [piano]), The Canticle of the Rose (Helen-Jane Howells [soprano], Navarra String Quartet), From Shore to Shore (Michael Chance [countertenor], James Boyd [guitar]), Agea (Navarra String Quartet), The Moon's Funeral (Chance [countertenor], Plant [piano]).
Catalogue Number: 08P084
Description: The bulk of this CD is devoted to songs with various accompanying forces, which present Phibbs as a significant and versatile song composer with a superb sensitivity to word setting and an accessible, communicative style. His vocabulary is very tonal and approachable, with a strikingly individual touch. The main work is The Canticle, a cycle of six Edith Sitwell settings, with an instrumental introduction and interlude. Sitwell's intricately wrought, often surreally visionary poetry makes a music of its own, and Phibbs reflects this, matching the vocal line to the cunning cadences of the texts, the choice of quartet timbres ideal to project the shaded, etched lines of shadowy illustration proper to the poems' tenebrous imagery. Shore sets texts by two poets, Sara Teasdale (1884-1933) and Nicholas Heiney (1982-2006), the latter an astonishingly articulate writer who found solace at sea from the mental illness that tormented him and ultimately led to his suicide. Phibbs treats his naive, eloquent poems, full of nightmare imagery gently, as though acknowledging a certain fragility, with the mellifluous, slender tone of the countertenor voice accompanied by cloud-wrack webs of subtle guitar tone. The more conventional Teasdale poems provide a consoling counterpoint. The main instrumental work, Flex, suggests movement - rhythmical, dancing - with repeated metrical patterns and changes of character in a series of linked episodes in different instrumental combinations.