Some months ago, I reviewed Lydia Kakabadse’s Cantica Sacra (Divine Art 25135), which I described as ‘instantly enjoyable’. I therefore welcomed the opportunity to hear this CD. I mentioned then that Kakabadse was born in Southport, daughter of a Russian/Georgian father and Greek/Austrian mother, she is very much indebted to those origins. The present CD is interesting not least for its attention to timbres. All the pieces except Concertato (for cello and double bass), are for an ensemble of single violin, viola, cello and double bass, joined in the Two Chamber Songs by the mezzo-soprano, Jess Dandy. This unusual quartet immediately creates a distinctive sound world, with a rich, lower-string sound. The music instantly has an originality of tone, and there are moments of particular beauty.
The opening work, The Coachman’s Terror, is in five movements, and is based on the poem Devils by Pushkin. The title gives the essence of the poem, offering the possibilities for much atmospheric writing with a sense of imminent peril. The echoes of Russian music are strong throughout, and the sense of menace from unknown spirits is palpable in parts. It is music which is atmospheric and very tuneful. Dance Sketches is an interesting piece, again with strong contrasts. The three dances are, Arabian, a 17th century-inspired stately court dance and then a dance for clockwork toys. Each offers the opportunity for both display and a range of instrumental colour.
The title piece, Concertato, could be considered a study in andante style. Each of the four movements is andante, one espressione, one legato, one con brio and the finale, energico. Each is technically demanding with many demands of the players, but overall this is not an exercise in virtuosity but a thoughtful and sometimes very moving work. The two chamber songs, one based on a poem by Emily Brontë, the other a setting of Edgar Allan Poe’s Eldorado, are interesting pieces of word-setting, with a nice interplay between the singer and the four instruments. The inspiration for Cantus Planus is, like much of Kakabadse’s music, religious, with each of the three movements representing different prayers of the day, Matins, Lauds and Vespers. The influence of medieval music is evident throughout. The final work, Recitativo Arioso + Variations, with its two variations is lyrical yet varied in mood.
Performances throughout are admirable, and there is tremendous pleasure to be gained from this music. More, please!