Our Indifferent Century: Britten | Finzi | Marsey | Ward

In 1914 Thomas Hardy wrote of ‘our indifferent century’; a generation later W.H. Auden urgently sought to fuse the political with the creative.

Today, profoundly unsettled by the turn of the world’s politics, three artists respond with a programme that explores the changes and challenges we face presently, but one that also offers hope, levity an even a degree of irreverence, and never loses sight of the joy and beauty of nature.

Hardy and Auden found their perfect musical counterparts in the songwriting of Finzi and Britten; in our own times William Marsey and Joanna Ward add their own musical voices of political urgency and wistful yearning.

[Francesca Chiejina] is equally at home in the coloratura of the first verse of ‘Let the florid music praise!’ [On this Island] as she is in the reflective, cantabile second verse. She finds the right tone of irony, and the cheeky, relaxed cabaret/jazzy drawl necessary for the final ‘As it is, plenty’ ...William Marsey has achieved something close to pathos in his short and highly unusual piece 'Removal and other powers'. It is beautifully sung by both singers ... Fleur Barron’s rich mezzo is ideal [in Finzi's 'Before and After Summer'], and she makes a wonderful job of the songs. It is clear from the opening song that assertiveness will be one of the qualities she will bring to her performance. She takes her cue, no doubt, and quite rightly, from the overall atmosphere of the set. Yet she adopts a pleasing simplicity of utterance for ‘Amabel’, and more particularly still for the preceding ‘Epeisodia’, a performance of exquisite lightness. If the songs appeal, so will Barron’s singing of them ... Binding the whole recital together from the keyboard is pianist, Natalie Burch ... Her playing throughout is very fine indeed, full of character, whether it be in forceful passages or in the more transparent, flowing textures that run in and out of the vocal line in some of the songs. She is totally at one with the singers, but you never forget she is there. All this is, I believe, the mark of a great accompanist"

read the full review here

"Chiejina’s and Burch’s compelling performance is richly mature and painstakingly coloured [Britten On this Island] ... Chiejina’s luxuriant voice always holds our attention ... William Marsey’s 2022 Removal and other powers flows naturally from Britten, hypnotic and unmoved, were it not for the women’s compassionate voices ... Finzi’s Before and after Summer dates from the years surrounding the Second World War. Barron’s enunciation is pinpoint precise. Her account of ‘Channel Firing’ is heart-breaking, while ‘He Abjures Love’ is turbulent and unsettling ... This perfect counterpart to Marsey [Joanna Ward's Summer Dresses] is unnerving, hallucinatory and exquisitely played, offering sun-drenched shards of memory ... Burch evokes countless, varied pictures and moods while always supporting and balancing the singers, despite many dense textures. She is a gifted sound-painter, breathing life into every detail, such as the random fall of leaves which opens ‘The Too Short Time’.Together with clear texts, fine recorded sound and Lucy Walker’s eloquent liner notes, this album is thought-provoking, beautifully executed and timely"

★ ★ ★ ★

"There is nothing indifferent about this recording, which takes its title from a poem by Thomas Hardy, Channel Firing ...From the opening of Let the florid music praise! from Benjamin Britten’s On this Island, Op. 11, words by WH Auden, soprano Francesca Chiejina sets the standard for the quality of this disc. Burch’s accompaniments and Chiejina’s strong voice sensitively capture the sentiments in the five songs, and together they perform with a persuasive sophistication. Chiejina’s diction is clear, and whether it be the ‘almost stereotypical word-painting in Seascape’s surging waves of piano figures’, the textures of the Nocturne, or, as Dr Walker notes, the short-lived cabaret style of As it is plenty, the detail is dynamically explored and executed ... Barron continues with the ten songs that make up Finzi’s Before and after Summer. She, too, has excellent diction and articulation and sensitively expresses the feelings in Thomas Hardy’s poetry ... All are performed with empathy, with Burch’s contribution elegantly played; she is able to deftly tap into the consciousness of each of the composer’s intentions"

Release Date: 20 October 2023
Catalogue No: DCD34311
Total playing time: 1:04:33

Recorded on 30 November and 1-2 December 2022 in Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh

Producer/Engineer: Paul Baxter
24-bit digital editing: Jack Davis
24-bit digital mastering: Paul Baxter

Design: Drew Padrutt
Booklet editor: Henry Howard
Cover image: Seven Sisters, South Downs National Park, Sussex; photo: Andy D Parker / Shutterstock

Session photography & videography: foxbrushfilms.com
Delphian Records Ltd – Edinburgh – UK www.delphianrecords.com



William Marsey:Removal & Other Powers


Fleur Barron performs Finzi's haunting Amabel with Natalie Burch ...

Album Booklet

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