HARRISON Return of the Nightingales
The piano music on this disc all comes from the past five years, following on a comparable period when Sadie Harrison (b1965) chose to put compositional activities on hold to work as an archaeologist; an activity no doubt galvanised through her involvement with the culture, its riches so nearly obliterated during the Taliban era, of Afghanistan. This is manifest in the alternately ecstatic and ominous expression to be found in Return of the Nightingales, a field recording of which bird provides the backdrop for some intricate and fastidious writing that alludes to Messiaen and Scriabin across its eventful and increasingly intoxicating course.
Couplets from the 18th-century Sufi poet Bidel lie behind the evocative vignettes of Par-feshani-ye ’eshq (‘The fluttering wings of love’), though Harrison casts her net considerably wider for inspiration. Thus, the subtle contrast in her takes on the archetypal nocturne that is Lunae or the pert homages to jazz pianists of Four Jazz Portraits. Above all, Shadows – six pieces which amount to a biography-in-music of the short-lived while prolific composer William Baines – draws on aspects of his music with salient references from his diary to result in a sequence which renders the protagonist from an affecting and frequently almost tangible perspective.
Three limpidly appealing miniatures conclude a disc that offers much of interest for inquiring listeners and players alike. Not that those latter will find it easy to match the technical finesse and interpretative insight of the pianists featured here, their playing enhanced by the realistic sound courtesy of Prima Facie. Harrison has built up a sizeable discography (find out more at sadieharrisoncomposer.co.uk), to which this latest release is a welcome addition.