This is probably a must-have CD for anyone who is interested in / enjoys choral music, as Kakabadse (British but with roots in European countries including Greece and Russia) takes the listener on a journey through time.
“Ithaka” symbolises a journey (from Odysseus’s literal attempt to get home) and each of the tracks in the first piece, Odyssey, takes different styles of choral music, such as Archaic (monophonic, old instruments) Roman (Greek Orthodox liturgy) or Modern (includes the Greek national anthem).
Odyssey, in parts, is modern sacred music that sounds surprisingly ancient; other parts are more modern, although the whole is never really going to fool anyone as being ancient, not least the presence of women’s voices.
The second half of the programme is given over to Songs, which is, well, songs. The first, The House Where I Was Born, is gloomy, based on a Charlotte Bronte poem and almost art-song— all the songs are vocals and piano but we say this because track two is of a different bent, As I Sat At The Café (from a poem called How Pleasant It Is To Have Money*) having a jazz, even bluesy, feel. The Ruined Maid, based on a poem by Hardy, is also quite sprightly, as is The Way Through the Woods, based on a Rudyard Kipling poem. (Aside from Kipling — named for Rudyard Lake — there’s local interest with I Remember, commissioned by the Forest School in Altrincham).
The other works vary but lean towards operatic, at least to us. Recitativo Arioso is good, a mournful song based on a boy sitting by his mother’s body; it has a lullaby-like quality to it.
All in all, essential for anyone with an interest in the variations of the human voice, but enjoyable for anyone else. The Choir of Royal Holloway, conducted by Rupert Gough, work the magic.
* This is a poem that satirises the wealthy and it’s as relevant today as it was 100 years ago: the idiots at any live event who still “ … loll and we talk until people look up / And when it’s half over we go out and sup” or think money can solve everything: “And if I should chance to run over a cad / I can pay for the damage if ever so bad.”
This is out on Divine Art, DDA25188
Jeremy Condliffe (December 2019)