Curtis Chamber Works, Vol 1

Warm-hearted settings that answer a longing for accessible music

Author: 
Andrew Lamb

Curtis Chamber Works, Vol 1

  • First Fruits, I was a King in Babylon
  • First Fruits, Above Wengen
  • First Fruits, Laughter
  • First Fruits, White Moons
  • First Fruits, Home Again
  • First Fruits, Tarn in the Hills
  • First Fruits, Skeins of Life
  • Memories, To JDM
  • Memories, Sunset
  • Memories, Turn Again Home
  • Memories, Lament
  • Memories, Song
  • Memories, Once in a Blue Moon
  • Memories, Haunted
  • Memories, Farewell
  • (A) Little Pilgrimage, Winter Sunshine
  • (A) Little Pilgrimage, February
  • (A) Little Pilgrimage, Seen at a Public Table
  • (A) Little Pilgrimage, Marooned
  • (A) Little Pilgrimage, Conflagration
  • (A) Little Pilgrimage, Spring
  • (A) Little Pilgrimage, Distant Memory
  • Love of Living, Love of Living
  • Love of Living, Thaw
  • Love of Living, Early Morning
  • Love of Living, Dear Enemy
  • Love of Living, Country Walk
  • Love of Living, Autumn
  • Love of Living, The Departed

Campion Cameo has already put out three CDs of Matthew Curtis’s orchestral music, of which I reviewed the third (12/06). Now the label offers what it bills as Curtis’s Chamber Works (Vol 1). It contains four song-cycle settings of poems by Birmingham poetess Anne Harris (1926‑90), a longtime friend of Curtis’s mother. The story of how the settings thus came about makes fascinating reading.

Curtis’s music has been categorised as belonging to the British light music tradition and the booklet quotes him as believing that “there remains a great longing for more accessible contemporary classical music among performers and audiences alike”. Hooray for that! Indeed, the composers who most immediately came to mind on first listening to this disc were Amy Woodforde-Finden and Easthope Martin, creators of sensitive and shapely ballads of long ago.

Individual pleasures from the disc include the heartfelt sentiment of “Farewell”, “Distant Memories” and “Dear Enemy”, the rich harmonies of “Above Wengen”, the scampering accompaniments of “Laughter” and “Song”, and the gentle haze of “Winter Sunshine”. Marie Vassiliou’s tonal range may not be wide but she captures well enough the heart-on-sleeve nature of the poems and their settings. As accompanist, Gavin Sutherland proves as expert at the piano as he so often has with the baton, and Curtis’s unpretentious and informative booklet-note is as heart-warming as his settings and the performances.

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