Classical home listening: Roderick Williams; Mother, Sister, Daughter; and BBC concerts from Wigmore Hall

·2 min read

On This Shining Night (Somm), songs for voice and string quartet, explores music for this (mainly) mid-20th-century medium by Frederick Delius, Peter Warlock, Samuel Barber and Sally Beamish, played by the Coull Quartet with top-quality singers: soprano Sophie Bevan, tenor James Gilchrist and, predominantly, baritone-composer Roderick Williams. The mood ranges from wistfulness to folk, from the potent beauty of Warlock’s Corpus Christi (“Lully, Lullay”) and Sorrow’s Lullaby to the conviction and sophistication of Barber’s setting of Matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach. The album’s title comes from another Barber setting, Sure on This Shining Night (to a poem by James Agee), one of four new arrangements by Williams. The expressive five-part Tree Carols by Sally Beamish (b1956), to poems by Fiona Sampson, was written for Williams and suits his ever-lyrical range. Bevan and Gilchrist may have less to do, but their contributions are distinctive and characterful. This is a rich and enchanting democracy of talent.

• As a pioneering collective, the ensemble Musica Secreta, founded 31 years ago, has brought to light music written by women in the 16th and 17th centuries, much of it anonymous. These forgotten composers range from nuns to courtiers, courtesans and actresses, often writing in secret. The ensemble’s guiding light, as scholar and director, is Laurie Stras, who has incomparable knowledge of this music and how to reconstruct it for performance. Mother, Sister, Daughter (Lucky Music Limited) brings together vespers of St Clare and St Lucy from convents, in Verona and Florence (well explained by Stras in her CD booklet note). The six female singers have a lightness and flexibility of tone; three instrumentalists (playing organ, harps and viol) add supportive variety. The disc also includes the group’s first commission: The Veiled Sisters by Joanna Marsh, an empathetic, soaring setting of two contrasting texts exploring the enclosed life.

• A week of renowned pianists at lunchtime: tomorrow, live from Wigmore Hall, Elisabeth Leonskaja, and recorded in Perth Concert Hall, Joanna MacGregor (Tuesday) and Steven Osborne (Wednesday and Thursday). The young pianists Ariel Lanyi and Jean-Sélim Abdelmoula are also featured. Monday to Friday, BBC Radio 3 and BBC Sounds.

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