Various Artists – David Bruce: The North Wind Was a Woman (2019)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 01:06:01 minutes | 1,31 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Digital Booklet, Front Cover | © Signum Records
Its title song-cycle, scored for folk-imbued ensemble and recorded with the acclaimed Nora Fischer, treats various aspects of the natural world as human characteristics. The Consolation of Rain is a moving reflection on loss and the restorative power of nature, while Cymbeline draws on ancient religious attitudes to the sun. Written for mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital, the work takes its name from an old Celtic word meaning ‘Lord of the Sun.’
Bruce has achieved global recognition as a composer, celebrated for his richly colourful, poetic, and joyful music. Recent commissions include the BBC Proms, Carnegie Hall, Covent Garden, and Glyndebourne.
I have been lucky enough to spend some time recently collaborating with the writer Aimee Bender. By chance I came across Aimee’s extraordinary collection of short stories ‘Willful Creatures’ and I instantly felt we shared many artistic goals and ideals. Aimee’s stories are often described as ‘modern fairytales’, they have something of the tone of a fairytale (a generalised sense of place and time, a willingness to incorporate the magical or supernatural, and often, a rather savage streak), but are unmistakably modern in tone, and a million miles from the Victorian sensibilities and morals of Hans Andersen or the Brothers Grimm. Aimee creates unique and extraordinary worlds, full of color and magic, tangential to our own, but somehow, in an often witty and understated way, reflecting back on our own world, returning us to it with fresh eyes. It is an approach to art which I find highly invigorating and inspiring.
Aimee showed me the libretto to an opera she had written for the composer John B Hedges and I was captivated as soon as I realized it was the Sea itself singing the opening lines – it was saying sorry to all the ships it had to let sink because its shoulders were too heavy and not meant for carrying boats. I loved the idea of an ‘element’ singing, and some time later the idea occurred to me that it could make for an interesting song-cycle to have a series of different elements, each singing in the first person. I approached Alasdair Middleton (the librettist for my opera A Bird in Your Ear) with this idea. Alasdair latched on to the concept immediately – the first poem he produced was Wind who, marvellously, was in unrequited love; followed by a rather melancholy and mysterious Night, anda crazed Moon who ‘wants to kill’. I later added two of my own poems to the collection, a rather bleak Snow that sees itself as ‘frozen tears’, and a Mountain that contemplates its only friendship over the years – with the night sky.
It is my fantastic privilege to be writing this piece for Dawn Upshaw, whom I have got to know over the past couple of years and who has been tremendously supportive of my work as a composer. Dawn sang my Piosenki last year on a number of occasions, and in thosesame concerts I was particularly taken with her performances of some lyrical and melancholy songs by John Dowland.It was this side to her voice that I decided I wanted to bring out in these songs, which are also inspired to some extent by Medieval French song, and more distantly, by the Strauss’s elegaic Four Last Songs. Aside from Dawn herself, inspiration also came from knowing the fantastic array of players who will be performing, several of whom I am lucky enough to count among my friends. These include harpist Bridget Kibbey, who premiered my solo harp piece Caja de Musica at Carnegie Hall in April; clarinetist Todd Palmer, who premiered my Clarinet Quintet, Gumboots (also at Carnegie) last autumn; leading Mandolinist Avi Avital with whom I have worked on a number of projects; and violinist Arnaud Sussman who premiered my piece Groanbox with Metropolis Ensemble earlier this year. (David Bruce)
1. Cymbeline: I. Sunrise 07:10
2. Cymbeline: II. Noon 06:25
3. Cymbeline: III. Sunset 07:35
4. The North Wind was a Woman: I. The Snow is Completely Without Hope 04:24
5. The North Wind was a Woman: II. The North Wind is a Woman 03:42
6. The North Wind was a Woman: III. The Night Wants You to Forget 05:04
7. The North Wind was a Woman: IV. The Crescent Moon is a Dangerous Lunatic 03:10
8. The North Wind was a Woman: V. The Mountain Shares her Solitary Dreams 05:30
9. The Consolation of Rain: I 04:48
10. The Consolation of Rain: II 03:16
11. The Consolation of Rain: III 06:18
12. The Consolation of Rain: IV 03:49
13. The Consolation of Rain: V 04:50
Avi Avital, mandolin
The North Wind Ensemble
Nora Fischer, soprano