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The songs of Judith Weir

Susan Bickley, Andrew Kennedy, Alish Tynan,
Ian Burnside (piano)

Signum SIGCD087

This is, to my taste, the best of Signum's latest batch of releases and I can't think who mightn't enjoy them.

Judith Weir is a complete original and her songs unique in their economy and telling settings of interesting texts in several languages. These unconventional songs should be heard often for contrast and to bring a breath of fresh air into regular song/lieder recitals.

The range is wide, from the ill-fated Bessie and Mary who succumbed to the plague - "less a song than a piano piece with vocal commentary" - to the unaccompanied mini-opera King Harald's Saga, for "the intrepid Jane Manning". The notes pay tribute to the original singers, and their successors here do Weir proud, with Ian Burnside welding the whole together.

The words are given in full with English translations from the Spanish and German. I was delighted to come across a different setting of Keats' dove; a favourite in our own collection of English song, given in Benjamin Frankel's setting.

The booklet could have done with a little editing; it is not instantly obvious whether Susan or Alish is singing, and it would be helpful to have that indicated on the index page for each group, as Signum often does. And simple adjustment could have created enough spare space for parallel presentation of the translations alongside the originals.

Peter Grahame Woolf