Fanfare

Christopher Fox (b. 1955) is described in the liner notes as an “innately independent” composer who creates music that “draws on elements of the experimental, spectral and minimalist traditions.” Interestingly, this disc was made at the old stomping ground of Benjamin Britten, The Maltings, Snape (a name that always sounded to me like a very mysterious and ominous creature in a book by Edward Corey), in fact in the Britten-Pears Recital Room.

I found most of these pieces fairly interesting, particularly Scanner, Hanging Line, Dialodia, (which sounded very much like a piece by Meredith Monk), Triptych, Outsider (which sounds based somewhat on madrigal music), and Index, Patrol , a stamping, shouting piece performed by Exaudi’s director, James Weeks, rather got on my nerves (perhaps its intention?). The spoken “pieces” Rationale, Babel , and Errata , were not devoid of humor but in the end of not very interesting to me. Most are composed for solo voice, with sopranos Julia Doyle and Juliet Fraser exemplary in their combination of perfect vocal placement, pitch, and rhythm. The brief appearance of countertenor Tom Williams showed that he has a really splendid voice. The interesting tightrope walked here between seriousness and wry humor will, I am sure, lead different listeners to hear this music and get different things out of it than I did.

Normally I say very little about the sound of the disc, but on this one, most of the time, the volume is far too low. You’ll have to crank it up t hear some of these pieces, particularly the spoken word one (though Babel is meant not to be heard too clearly), while a few of the sung pieces will pierce your eardrums. Perhaps this was purposeful too. Definitely a disc worth hearing at least once, though in the end it seemed to me more a technical display by singers performing cerebral music rather than anything that is highly engrossing. But then again, perhaps that is its purpose, as well.

—Lynn René Bayley