Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

On Buying a Horse – The Songs of Judith Weir

Susan Bickley / Andrew Kennedy / Ailish Tynan / Iain Burnside

Signum Classics SIGCD087 – Recorded 2005-06   - 68 mins

On Buying a Horse (Andrew Kennedy)
Ox Mountain was Covered by Trees (Susan Bickley & Ailish Tynan )
Songs from the Exotic (Susan Bickley )
Scotch Minstrelsy (Andrew Kennedy)
The Voice of Desire (Susan Bickley )
A Spanish Liederbooklet ( Ailish Tynan )
King Harald's Saga (Susan Bickley )
Standchen (Susan Bickley )

Original, ground breaking, quixotic, innovative, provocative, creative, capricious, whimsical, energising, confrontational, challenging, exigent, cutting edge, radical, perverse, complex, zany – these adjectives have all been applied to Judith Weir's music and I amstill searching around for something that it truly descriptive of the mental challenge that her works present.   I think it is her instinct for the unexpected that makes her works so stimulating, and this collection is rich in this element and she is exceptionally well served by its performers.

Susan Bickley , Andrew Kennedy and Ailish Tynan are all specialists in the art of song, indeed the latter two are both winners of the prestigious Cardiff Singer of the World Rosenblatt Recital Song Prize, and Iain Burnside is a pianist who obviously relishes every twist of the music.

Ailish Tynan makes the shortest contribution – but her spirited and light-hearted performance of the three songs that make up the Spanish Liederbooklet are delightful.    Andrew Kennedy's superb diction is ideally suited to listing the anonymous strictures involved in buying a horse, and he brings an engagingly dour wit to the five ballads that make up Scotch Minstrelsy .

This leaves the lion's share to Susan Bickley , and she takes the opportunity with formidable   strength. The unaccompanied King Harald's Saga is a quite extraordinary piece of virtuoso singing redolent of the brutality of those days.  Songs from the Exotic are languorously mystic, but The voice of Desire is perhaps the most compelling cycle in the collection, with its repeated chilling reminder “Death will not fail to come”.

The album, recorded over a period of time, works better as an anthology for dipping into rather than as a continuous recital.

Serena Fenwick