Lesley-Jane Rogers soprano
John Turner recorder
Prima Facie PFCD202
Lightly scored for mainly solos and duets, this disc is perfect for a quiet evening in front of a log fire when peace prevails and the listening required is not too demanding. Ronald Stevenson’s music provides the focus for the CD and his compositions are finely crafted, with his musical world a gentle, intimate one that draws you in with its Celtic flavours, changing textures, and general bounce and positivity.
It is Percy Grainger’s voice, however, that opens and closes the disc. As well as lending symmetry, the different versions of his well known Country Gardens function as a cheerful ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’, but I suspect it is the Australian in me that longed for much more rhythmic vigour and spontaneity in the interpretations to capture that essential boldness and sunshine of Grainger. The link between Stevenson and Grainger is explored further with Stevenson’s witty and playful A Wee Holiday Suite for recorder and piano, and his two recorder and piano arrangement of Grainger’s Over the Hills and Far Away; both were written as a tribute to Ella Grainger (Percy’s widow) on her 89th birthday in 1978.
John Turner’s disc provides an important doorway into the forgotten byways of British music. Compositions by David Johnson and Edward McGuire feature, and the five Little Cynical Songs by Wilma Paterson display a welcome change in colour and mood.
John Purser’s (husband to Paterson) Skye Blue receives a brilliant performance by Turner who commissioned the solo in 2019. At almost four and a half minutes in duration, this piece was one of the highlights of the CD, its intelligence, integrity and striking contrasts for the instrument demanding my attention.
The lyrics in the booklet are most welcome. While the light, lyrical qualities of Lesley-Jane Rogers’ voice suit many of the folk music influenced songs, her diction is sometimes secondary to her beauty of tone. Biographical details about Ronald Stevenson, who, after all, is the focus of the CD, were strangely missing, and I did look through the booklet more than once convinced that I had overlooked that detail.
Even so, beautiful pianistic colours are captured in the accompaniments of Harvey Davies, while Benedict Holland, who only appears once on track 2 in Stevenson’s song A Year Owre Young, contributes violin playing that is masterful and compelling.
All in all, this is an unusual compilation, which will give much pleasure to many listeners, and not only just to enthusiasts of music for the recorder.
Review by Wendy Hiscocks