Review of LNT105: Sea of Glass Môr o Wydr
Alex Heffes, CD Review
The selection of music on this disc is both generous in length and enterprising in choice, reflecting Lontano's aim to publicise the works of lesser known composers, and in particular, those of women. The strong Welsh character of the harp is represented by four composers of this origin: John Metcalf, Jeffrey Lewis, Grace Williams and Robert Ap Huw. The last of these is the 17th-century scribe of the Musica neu Beroriaeth, probably the earliest surviving collections of music written especially for the harp, whose delicate lullaby, Hun Gwenllian [is] the melodic basis of Jeffrey Lewis's Dreams, Dances and Lullabies which directly follows it. The abstract mood of Lewis's music contrasts well with the more picturesque character of Metcalf's Harp Scrapbook which includes the surreal depiction of a Venetian gondola appearing in the port of Miami.
Throughout those pieces, Elinor Bennett maintains an admirable control of sonorities, allowing inner melodic lines to gently emerge and disappear and ethereal bass notes to resound without clouding the overall texture of the music. Particularly lovely is the short and elegiac Hiraeth (Longing) by Grace Williams which is performed here with a simple but poignant lyricism.
The transcendental quality of Arvo Pärt's music is captured particularly well in Pari Intervallo and Spiegel im Spiegel, transcribed by Elinor Bennett. The evocation of bell-like textures by the use of harmonics and repetitive scalic patterns creates a meditative serenity of which Pärt would surely approve. The two works by Philip Glass (Metamorphosis No. 2 and Wichita Vortex Sutra) are also successful in conveying a feeling that we are not just hearing transcriptions of pieces for harp, but music that uses the sonorities and techniques of this instrument to create performances with true style and depth.