Sixteen Contemporary Love Songs: Music by Howard Skempton, Elena Kats-Chernin, Richard Reed Parry, Judith Weir, Nico Muhly, Joby Talbot, David Knotts, Frederick Viner, Robert Saxton, Michael Zev Gordon, Pavel Zemek Novák, Bernard Hughes, Piers Hellawell, Chia-Ying Lin, David Matthews and Cheryl Frances-Hoad

Reviewed on Wed 05 Sep, 2018

There’s something to admire in all of the pieces, not least those from Robert Saxton, Elena Kats-Chernin, Piers Hellawell and David Matthews, by turns erudite, poised, playful and passionate.

Here’s an exquisite discovery. Sixteen of them, in fact. All newly commissioned and recorded here for the first time. It’s a bran-tub of unexpected charms and delightful surprises and, despite the range of different compositional voices featured, remarkably coherent and satisfying. A vital companion to William Howard’s earlier, late-Romantic-accented Sixteen Love Songs, it brims with variegated vitality and often pulse-quickening beauty. There’s something to admire in all of the pieces, not least those from Robert Saxton, Elena Kats-Chernin, Piers Hellawell and David Matthews, by turns erudite, poised, playful and passionate. There’s a lilting, hypnotic poetry to Howard Skempton’s gorgeously melancholic Solitary Highland Fling that inhabits the same emotional territory as Peter Maxwell Davies’s haunting Farewell to Stromness. Joby Talbot’s delicately chiming Camille is a touching, tender tribute to his infant daughter, Chia-Ying Lin’s Chanson Perpétuelle a glittering paean to love. Howard plays a crisp, clear Steinway D with telling delicacy and dexterity throughout in a recording framed by a warm, cosseting bloom. Recommended.
–Michael Quinn