GLOBAL RELEASE DATE: 22 OCTOBER 2021
GLOBAL RELEASE DATE: 22 OCTOBER 2021
Hot on the heels of their acclaimed debutHERE WE ARE, The Hermes Experiment’s second Delphian album is an equally bold statement. Songs commissioned specially for the ensemble – by Philip Venables, Ayanna Witter-Johnson and others – are interleaved with new arrangements (of composers including Barbara Strozzi, Clara Schumann and Lili Boulanger) for the group’s distinctive line-up of voice, clarinet, harp and double bass.
Moving and original, SONG reinvents a genre: here every instrument is a voice in its own right, and they all carry the drama.
"The Hermes Experiment are a vibrant, deeply musical quartet ... All [songs] are beautifully presented in their new guises, none more so than soprano Héloïse Werner’s of Barbara Strozzi’s dark Tradimento! ... The performances are impeccably realised, each player a virtuoso in his or her own right, with impeccable intonation and sense of ensemble. Delphian’s sound is first-rate, catching the full dynamic, ranging from the sepulchral bass notes of Anne Denholm’s harp to every nuance of Werner’s voice or Schofield’s bass"
'The Hermes Experiment bring something very special to contemporary music performance: visceral entertainment. In SONG, the package is way more than the sum of its unconventional parts, which includes assorted music by Eleanor Alberga, Helen Grime, Kerry Andrew and Olivia Cheney as well as idiosyncratic treatments of past composers as diverse as 17th century Barbara Strozzi and 19th century Clara Schumann to early 20th century Lili Boulanger. The performances are variously witty, mournful, surreal, edgy and beautiful.
Not every group so compelling in live performance translates that magic onto disc. Here’s a brilliant case of one that can'
★ ★ ★ ★ ★
'This album is an extraordinary collection, some songs specially commissioned for the ensemble, others reinvented for it through unexpected, creative arrangements. Seventeenth-century composer Barbara Strozzi’s “Tradimento!” takes on an unmistakably contemporary palette, while this ensemble’s ethereal instrumentation brilliantly suits 20th-century French composer Lili Boulanger’s “Reflets” and “Attente”. Of the commissioned pieces, Kerry Andrews’ fruit-inspired suite brings out the exuberance of these musicians, and in “A Photograph”, British composer Philip Venables ingeniously juxtaposes spoken narration and song"
"I love the way that distinctions between voice and instruments slide in and out of focus on this sophomore album from the intrepid contemporary music quartet, with Héloïse Werner's pure soprano often mirroring the timbre of Oliver Pashley's clarinet; highlights include Olivia Chaney's Roman Holiday (an evocative, bittersweet little monodrama in four minutes), Eleanor Alberga's unexpectedly poetic treatment of text from the shipping forecast in Deep Blue Sea, and Kerry Andrew's coolly sensuous setting of William Carlos Williams's much-memed poem about plums in an icebox"
EDITOR'S CHOICE - October 2021
"so much delights and engages our ears, hearts and minds, from Jeremy Thurlow’s delicately wrought “Quiet Songs” to the dramatic impact of Philip Venables’ “A Photograph”. Britain’s music scene offers numerous dynamic small-sized groups, but The Hermes Experiment, so spellbinding, so imaginative, continue to stand alone"
★ ★ ★ ★
1. Olivia Chaney:Roman Holiday
Category: Chamber, Contemporary, Editor's Choices, Song, The Hermes Experiment
Guy Rickards' Gramophone Magazine, review, chosen as February Editor's Choice by Editor Martin Cullingford
The Hermes Experiment in Greyfriars Kirk image foxbrush.co.uk
The Hermes Experiment are a vibrant, deeply musical quartet. Pwyll ap Siôn welcomed their previous album, ‘Here We Are’, as a ‘deeply engaging collection’ (9/20). This follow-up is equally delightful and, if a touch less edgy, focuses more on lyricism in the 18 songs – apparent right from the start, with double-bassist Marianne Schofield’s enchanting arrangement of Olivia Chaney’s Roman Holiday.
Only one composer – Emily Hall, an extract from whose cycle Befalling closes the programme – featured on its predecessor, and the new disc casts its stylistic net wider, delving back to Lili Boulanger (the delicate, impressionistic Reflets plus Attente) and a love song (setting Rückert) by Clara Schumann, both in arrangement, of course. Indeed, two-thirds of the songs are rescorings of remarkable acuity by the four players, Schofield and clarinettist Oliver Pashley providing the bulk. All are beautifully presented in their new guises, none more so than soprano Héloïse Werner’s of Barbara Strozzi’s dark Tradimento!.
Of the unarranged songs, the most impressive are Draw the Line, an atmospheric duet for soprano and double bass by Ayanna Witter-Johnson – a cellist and singer herself – and Mâh Didam (‘I saw the moon’), an extraordinary tone-picture by Soosan Lolavar setting three lines of a verse by Rahi Mo’ayyeri. More cantata than song, Eleanor Alberga’s Deep Blue Sea (2020), ironically, is brighter in tone as it traverses through the regions of the shipping forecast! Philip Venables’s A Photograph (2020) is part melodrama, part scena, setting Cordelia Lynn’s libretto imagined from an old photo (reproduced in the booklet) of three women: where are they striding to – and from – so purposefully, and why did one call to say she did not want to be found?
The performances are impeccably realised, each player a virtuoso in his or her own right, with impeccable intonation and sense of ensemble. Delphian’s sound is first-rate, catching the full dynamic, ranging from the sepulchral bass notes of Anne Denholm’s harp to every nuance of Werner’s voice or Schofield’s bass.
This article originally appeared in the February 2022 issue of Gramophone.
The Hermes Experiment perform Emily Hall's 'befalling' in a specially-filmed performance