JOHN BEVAN BAKER: Songs of Courtship; Duo; Piano Suite; Spring; Triptych; A Song for Kate; Eclogue; Rorate Coeli Desuper – Hebrides Ensemble/ Consort of Voices/ William Conway, director – Linn

by | Feb 27, 2007 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

JOHN BEVAN BAKER: Songs of Courtship; Duo; Piano Suite; Spring; Triptych; A Song for Kate; Eclogue; Rorate Coeli Desuper – Hebrides Ensemble/ Consort of Voices/ William Conway, director – Linn CKD 286 (HDCD), 67:10 ****:

This disc took me a little by surprise. Baker (1926-1994) is a Scottish composer who spent most of his life in a rather parochial atmosphere in a place called the Black Isle School in the Scottish Highlands. He is known and loved there, a true son of the area whose mission was the production of quality music for the school and the community — the essence of his life’s work. Many fell under the spell of his music, and the introductory note included in the booklet by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies testifies to the importance of this man in his own locale. I sense that Maxwell Davies may have had a hand in the production of this disc, though no proof to that effect is given.

So it is a rather unusual recording that was probably very fortunate to have been made at all, a tribute album put together under the oversight of William Conway, the Artistic Director of the Hebrides Ensemble, and first cellist of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. As a tribute album, you would expect several types of music to be displayed, and that is indeed what we get. The Songs of Courtship are my favorite, easily. This is easy-on-the- ears music, but delightfully scored and quite ingenious in construction. The Duo is for oboe and violin, the Triptych for cello and piano, and Spring for solo violin. A Song for Kate is for string ensemble, Eclogue for mixed ensemble, and Rorate Coelli Desuper for vocal quartet, strings, organ, trumpet, and tubular bells. This last is a 15th century setting by the Scottish poet William Dunbar in memory of Baker’s mother. It is quite a powerful work based on Latin chant, and proves a fitting conclusion to the disc.

The commitment of the artists here goes without saying, and the sound is very good. Linn’s HDCD recording has nice ambiance even without HDCD decoding. This is an album of music that, while not mandatory, will certainly give you much pleasure if you are feeling in need of something different (and good).

— Steven Ritter
 

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