Here is a CD which exemplifies Metier’s unique flair for presenting contemporary British music to best advantage, a wide ranging programme conceived as a whole by composer Julia Usher, who has been in the forefront of composer-publishing for many years, and her ‘mentor’ and performer, John Turner.
The vocal texts are of the highest quality, selected from Shakespeare (Pericles & King Lear) and William Blake (Four Zoas). Julia Usher is a versatile composer of wide and varied experience, whose work as a musical therapist has informed her selection of passages from Pericles for her ‘mini-opera’ Sacred Physic about the meeting of King Pericles with Marina, his lost daughter, supposedly drowned at sea as a baby, and their dawning understanding of their relationship. The timbres of cello and harpsichord, with recorder and oboe/harpsichord, provide evocative support for Lesley-Jane Rogers. What is the Price of Experience? is an extraordinarily powerful and sombre Blake poem, a ‘bleak yet compassionate outcry’, and Poor Naked Wretches from King Lear was specially set by Julia Usher to complete the CD. These vocal items are interpreted by two fine singers who both give exemplary performances, soprano Lesley-Jane Rogers negotiating difficult lines with ease, clear diction and attractive timbre; Nikki Bloomfield a formidable, versatile musician, who doubles as virtuoso innovative instrumentalist and alto singer, an unusual combination.
A Reed in the Wind is a valuable contribution to the limited repertoire for unaccompanied oboe (and cor anglais), dispatched with flair by Nikki Bloomfield, and John Turner encouraged Julia Usher to explore ‘dextrous flying fingerwork and unusual timbres’ for her pieces inspired by visits to the Venetian Lagoon, which are accompanied by Peter Lawson, who also has a solo piece for piano.
This is an excellent, highly desirable portrait CD of an interesting composer, who studied at York with Robert Sherlaw-Johnson and has preserved an ever open, enquiring attitude to music and its performance.