Review of LNT127: Elizabeth Maconchy: Music for Voices
Anthony Burton, BBC Music Magazine
Elizabeth Maconchy, born 100 years ago last March, wrote choral music with a real flair for sonorous chord-spacing, overlapping resonances and textual clarity. This well-filled disc offers a (not quite complete) survey spanning her whole career, from a radiant Hymn to God the Father of 1931 to the impressive Still Falls the Rain, written in 1985 for her local Chelmsford Festival. One surprise is the inclusion of two strong and effective pieces of anti-Fascist agitprop written for the Workers' Music Association. Less of a surprise is the appearance in apparently light-hearted cycles of numbers of real depth, such as 'The Snail' in the 1979 Creatures, or 'For Snow' in the 1978 Four Miniatures - reconciling modesty with profundity in a way that's typical of the composer.
The BBC Singers are old hands at Maconchy's music, and under the versatile Odaline de la Martinez they sing with immaculate pitching, balance and attack. They're recorded in a heavy acoustic, and at climaxes the combination of this and some individual vibrato can become a little overbearing. But the quiet singing, as in the magical 1965 Nocturnal, is ravishing. Highly recommended. Now, how about a companion disc including Maconchy's superb pieces for chorus and chamber ensembles?