The North Wind was a Woman – Chamber works by David Bruce

Reviewed on Wed 21 Aug, 2019

Composed for mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital and the Doric Quartet, Cymbeline is a vivacious, wondrously evocative, mystic meditation on the name’s ancient Celtic association with the sun.

If David Bruce’s Gumboots (coupled with Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet, reviewed 30 June 2016) caught the ear, this collection of intimate and passionate responses to the natural world lit up by watercolour-delicate lyricism, exotic accents and striking atmospherics will certainly appeal. Composed for mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital and the Doric Quartet, Cymbeline is a vivacious, wondrously evocative, mystic meditation on the name’s ancient Celtic association with the sun, its three movements also alluding to the Christian notion of the Holy Trinity. A set of five “songs without words”, The Consolation of Rain answers the grief of loss in beautifully sensitive, consummately delicate performances by Camerata Pacifica as it moves from keening lament to peaceful, accepting release. No less beguiling is The North Wind was a Woman, a hauntingly realised song-cycle imagining the natural world with human characteristics. Originally written for Dawn Upshaw, here Nora Fischer’s equally characterful but lighter, more fluid vocals pay poetic dividends aplenty in Bruce’s folksong allusions aided by dexterous accompaniment from the North Wind Ensemble. Superb sound makes this well worth investigating.
–Michael Quinn