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Rubbra: The Jade Mountain – Songs

Lucy Crowe (soprano), Claire Barnett-Jones (mezzo-soprano), Marcus Farnsworth (baritone); Timothy Ridout (viola), Catrin Finch (harp), Iain Burnside (piano) (Chandos)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

The Jade Mountain; Psalms; Two Sonnets by William Alabaster; Salve Regina etc
Lucy Crowe (soprano), Claire Barnett-Jones (mezzo-soprano), Marcus Farnsworth (baritone); Timothy Ridout (viola), Catrin Finch (harp), Iain Burnside (piano)
Chandos CHAN 20182   72:47 mins


Rubbra liked varying the accompaniments he wrote for his songs, and some of them require a string quartet or orchestra. This excellent new recital collects those where a piano or harp accompanies – 34 songs in total.

‘Nod’ is the earliest, written in 1921 when Rubbra was just 20, and in no sense a beginner’s effort. Pianist Iain Burnside and baritone Marcus Farnsworth catch evocatively its misty vision of an ageing shepherd’s weary tread toward ‘the quiet steps of dreamland, the waters of no-more-pain’.

The five-song cycle The Jade Mountain dates from four decades later, and is central to the recital. Chinese poetry provides the texts, and Catrin Finch’s harp brings a sense of ethereality and exoticism to the accompaniments. Soprano Lucy Crowe is a touch effortful by comparison, the high notes in ‘A Night Thought on Terrace Tower’ revealing an element of strain. Both the unaccompanied ‘The Mystery’ and ‘Jesukin’ from Two Songs, Op. 4 reveal Crowe’s sensitive artistry better, as does Rubbra’s last song ‘Fly, Envious Time’.

Other highlights are mezzo-soprano Claire Barnett-Jones’s injection of dramatic point and immediacy to the first of the ThreePsalms, Op. 61, an austere setting which can easily meander. She is joined by Marcus Farnsworth for Rubbra’s duet setting of the traditional ‘Dear Liza’ – a welcome injection of jollity at the end of a generally contemplative recital.

Full texts and an informative essay by Jonathan Clinch are provided, further enhancing the attractions of this valuable issue.


Terry Blain