Wallen (The) Girl in my Alphabet
Errollyn Wallen (b1958) is unsettlingly versatile. Her works range from jazz songs (a highly successful sideline which she has toured as singersongwriter) to opera‚ instrumental pieces to ballet. Her music is directly communicative‚ tonally based‚ recognisably turnofthe21stcentury. Although with one foot in the popular camp‚ she sees herself unequivocally as a composer in the modern classical tradition. Her facility for a good tune is evinced in her alternately quirky and sad cycle Are You Worried About The Rising Cost of Funerals? (1994) for which Wallen wrote her own texts‚ here beautifully sung by Patricia Rozario. Another side to her vocal style is provided by In Our Lifetime (1990)‚ a tribute for baritone and tape to Nelson Mandela on his then impending release from prison.
Wallen’s instrumental works are richly diverse‚ with dance often a prominent feature. Dervish (2001) for cello and piano captures the Sufi whirling’s ‘rapt and still devotion’ as well as the ‘passion that is in speed’. The four dances of the ballet Horseplay (1998) are vivacious studies in motion. The delightful miniature Louis’ Loops (1999 – named for a young cousin and the composer Couperin)‚ given here in Margaret Leng Tan’s world première performance‚ includes ‘snippets’ of Couperin dances. Wallen herself is heard as pianist in the title track‚ The Girl in My Alphabet (1990)‚ a blockbuster piano duo in which The Girl from Ipanema is used as the basis for what amounts to a compositional CV.
This‚ then is a brilliant portrait disc of a composer with a very clear focus yet still expanding her range. The performances are uniformly excellent and Andrew Keener’s sound is rich if a touch bright. I cannot commend this disc strongly enough.