JOHN MCCABE (1939-2015): Requiem Sequence, Irish Song Book (Lesley-Jane Rogers [soprano], Richard Uttley [piano]), Visions, Siberia (William Byrd Singers), Mary Queen of Scots: Two Dances (Northern Chamber Orchestra; Nicholas Ward), Desert IV: Vista (John Turner [recorder]), ALAN RAWSTHORNE (1905-1971): Theme and 4 Studies (John McCabe [piano]).
Catalogue Number: 07S067
Label: Prima Facie
Description: This 'composer portrait' in McCabe's memory showcases his versatility and range in a variety of smaller forms. Requiem Sequence was written in 1971 in memory of Rawsthorne and Barbirolli. It sets selected texts from the Requiem Mass as a song cycle, not in liturgical order, in a gently grieving mood. Always based in tonality, McCabe's idiom in the 1970s allowed a brief flirtation with serial techniques, producing a more acerbic sense of harmony than later works; here the material is based on the potent harmony of the piano's opening chords. Visions and Siberia, setting the dark, visionary verse of tragic 19th century poet James Clarence Mangan for a cappella choir, are more conventionally tonal, though in a characteristically free sense. This is also true of the 1994 Irish Song Book, which sets six different poets dramatically and atmospherically, with piano accompaniments that are a wonder to behold, perfectly crafted illustrative tone poems in their own right by a complete pianist-composer. The Two Dances, extracted from McCabe's ballet score of the previous year in 1977 (not 1997 as the booklet has it) suggest courtly Renaissance music without imitating it, in a contemporary tonal vocabulary. Vista, vividly evoking a desert landscape, takes the recorder out of its customary comfort zone, with some striking extended effects and a free-floating, dissonant sense of impressionistic tonality. McCabe as champion of his colleagues' music appears in his fine performance of Rawsthorne's pungently tonal, pianistically gratifying set of contrasting variations on a lyrical theme.