ELIAS Electra Mourns
Over almost five decades of composing, Brian Elias has created an output which, if not large (his publisher’s catalogue currently lists 48 entries), is substantial in content and conception.
This disc commences with Geranos (1985), its tangibly theatrical gestures integrated into a three-movement sequence as rigorous motivically as it is incisive rhythmically – not least in the lamentations of ‘Adonidia’, plangently realised by Nicholas Kok and Psappha. Forward almost 25 years and Meet me in the Green Glen (2009), set to poems by John Clare, proves a notable addition to the unaccompanied song-cycle. This recording alternates baritone and mezzo, with Roderick Williams bringing an elegant lyricism to the opening song and Susan Bickley a touching vulnerability to ‘Love’s Pains’. Williams is hardly less persuasive in Once did I breathe another’s breath (2012), five settings from 16th-century poets whose vocal rhetoric and eloquence are complemented by a piano part limpidly rendered by Iain Burnside.
The programme ends with Electra Mourns (2012) – a scena on the protagonist’s monologue in Sophocles’ drama set to the original Greek, which contributes audibly to the hieratic nature of this music. String orchestra and cor anglais make an equivocal ‘double’ to the vocal part; an amalgam which evokes Baroque and Classical precedents alongside an instrumental part that draws resourcefully on more recent traditions. Bickley and Nicholas Daniel are assured in their contributions, with Clark Rundell drawing requisite intensity from the Britten Sinfonia.
Newcomers to Elias should begin with the scintillating disc of his orchestral pieces The House that Jack Built, A Talisman and Doubles, to which this arresting follow-up is cordially recommended. Those acquiring it can also hear two single-voice alternatives of the Clare song-cycle, free to download from NMC’s website.