Hughes: I Am The Song

Reviewed on Wed 20 Jul, 2016

Writing with obvious feeling for the contours of the voice and a keen sense of the value of words, Hughes is unfailingly lyrical and well attuned to the sense of occasion – as the Two Choral Fanfares (settings of Siegfried Sassoon and Charles Causley and described as ‘concert openers’) economically demonstrate.

Boasting fine contributions by the BBC Singers, this rich survey of Bernard Hughes’s choral music provides a decidedly moreish introduction to the London-born composer. Writing with obvious feeling for the contours of the voice and a keen sense of the value of words, Hughes is unfailingly lyrical and well attuned to the sense of occasion – as the Two Choral Fanfares (settings of Siegfried Sassoon and Charles Causley and described as ‘concert openers’) economically demonstrate. There’s a strong theatrical bent, too, in the large-scale ‘radio opera’ The Death of Balder, a striking re-telling of an ancient Norse myth skilfully blending spoken narration, arias and duets and altogether rich in detail and effect. Similarly, the evocative faux-ancient accents of A Medieval Bestiary, Hughes deftly weaving solo and choral voices together in a vivid tapestry. Of the shorter pieces, Revelation Window is a glowing amalgam of wordless harmonies, the Robert Burns setting, The winter it is past, as beautiful as it is bleak.
–Michael Quinn