This is an instantly enjoyable CD which will give much pleasure – it makes ideal late-night listening.
Lydia Kakabadse writes in a spirit obviously based on both the serenities of Gregorian chant and Orthodox music. Texts are generally in Latin, though the Pater Noster blends both Greek and Latin versions.
Kakabadse was born in Southport, daughter of a Russian/Georgian father and Greek/Austrian mother, and the influence of these origins is immediately evident. Add to this a mastery of counterpoint and a richness of ideas, and there is a distinctive voice.
The Spectre of a Maiden Scorned is something of an oddity. Subtitled ‘Concert Requiem’, it uses texts from the Latin Requiem (sometimes cut, and much rearranged) to tell the tale of a suicidal maiden who feels betrayed by a young monk. The final piece is in English, a text by Martha Lavinia Hoffman from a poem The Maiden’s lament to her false lover. I found myself rather ignoring the story and concentrating just on the beauties of the music. This concert work is accompanied by a small ensemble (flute, cor anglais, violin, viola, cello, double bass and percussion – one of each). Grace Durham has a lovely voice, sometimes with a boyish simplicity, admirably suited to both text and idiom.
All the other pieces are a capella. The six voices of the Clare College Alumni blend very well, with clear diction, very much in the English choral tradition. It is a bonus that this CD provides full texts for all works. Although the Latin pieces are generally familiar, there are substantial textual cuts in one or two, including the De Profundis, Te Deum, and the doxology used in services is omitted from the Magnificat, though the text is complete. Every piece has a devotional quality, but nothing lingers: the spirit of movement characteristic of Gregorian chant is evident.
I look forward to hearing more from this very gifted and accessible composer.