GLOBAL RELEASE DATE: 22 OCTOBER 2021
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.