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Music From 3 Continents - Bruce Mahin, Graham Hair

Mahin / Scottish Voices / Thomson / Pollauf
Release Date: 07/30/2013 
Label:  Ravello   Catalog #: 7877   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Graham HairBruce Mahin
Performer:  Helen ThomsonJacqueline Pollauf
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scottish Voices
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

HAIR O Venezia 1. Songs from the Turkish 3. MAHIN Time2. 4 Whitman Psalms Scottish Voices; 1 Helen Thomson, 4 Jacqueline Pollauf (hp); 3 Graham Hair (digital harmonium); 3 Read more class="ARIAL12">Alex South (cl) RAVELLO 7787 (43:53)

The very first track gives you some idea of the power of this disc (entitled Music from Three Continents ). Closely recorded, it is an explosion of sound and exuberance. The first five tracks comprise Graham Hair’s O Venezia (2004) for four solo female voices and harp. Apparently inspired by Wagner’s account of a sleepless night in Venice and of the sounds he might have encountered from his balcony, Hair has taken this idea and responded with simply dazzling vocal writing. It is not until the third movement, “Ave Maris stella,” that we get some sense of repose (it begins with a plainchant statement before a harp joins the argument and polyphony blossoms). The texts are either by Venetians or are related to Venice in some other way, taking in the ancient (Ave Maris stella) and the much more recent (Luigi Nono). The performance is simply stunning, and Hair’s imagination seems to know no bounds. The final movement, also entitled, “O Venezia,” is magnificently poignant in its use of spoken text. Apparently O Venezia is a “progressively accumulating song-cycle,” as the promotional material has it, so one looks forward to more. The rather spooky sounds of digital harmonium and clarinet haunt Hair’s Songs from the Turkish before the second movement (“Dreaming in Daylight”) adds a touch of humor.

Bruce Mahin’s Time 2 begins with a harp solo, beautifully caught here. Perhaps I will be alone in hearing a link in this writing to Britten’s Ceremony of Carols , but I will not be alone in hearing the poignancy (and piquancy) of this writing. Mahin writes expertly for his voices, and the dramatic gestures of the second movement, “Dreaming in Daylight” are very effective indeed, as are the moments of almost preternatural beauty that Scottish Voices can conjure up. The long melismas of the final movement, “Platonic Drowse” are particularly noteworthy. Mahin’s Whitman Psalms is a single movement voices-only piece of some seven concentrated minutes’ duration. The excellence and unanimity of the voices is typical of this disc as a whole; the harmonies are beautifully spicy.

Booklet notes do not come with the CD, but are available online and include all the texts (they come up automatically when the disc is put into a computer). Interested readers may wish to try out the YouTube sampler: youtube.com/watch?v=PGbmAx9xDwA. The performances are also available on iTunes. Do investigate—there is something very special about this recording despite the low playing time.

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

O Venezia by Graham Hair
Performer:  Helen Thomson (Harp)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scottish Voices
Time2 by Bruce Mahin
Performer:  Jacqueline Pollauf (Harp)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scottish Voices
Songs from the Turkish by Graham Hair
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scottish Voices
Whitman Songs by Bruce Mahin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Scottish Voices

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