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Classical Music Review

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Whispers of Heavenly Death
Vocal Works of Scott Perkins


Composer: Scott Perkins
Label: Navona Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 09 November 2018

Navona Records release Scott Perkins's latest release, Vocal Works. The album opens with a selection of Walt Whitman's oeuvre, including the work that inspired the album's title, which Perkins's music hauntingly elucidates as the lament of a soul hovering on the brink between life and death...

If you're not a fan of vocal works, then there is very little here that will convert you. And while I enjoyed, very much, the composer's The Stolen Child: Choral Works of Scott Perkins, I found this new release to be a bit of a struggle.

Whereas the previous album had a good balance of pieces that wonderfully complimented each other, I found Whispers of Heavenly Death to be a bit of a mismatch of styles. It's the sort of album that I doubt anyone will truly enjoy each and every track.

'Holy Sonnets' by John Donne is a Petrarch-style, English Renaissance collection of sonnets auguring the later Baroque period's preoccupation with the contrast between carnality and mortality.

'Riddle Songs' explores poems taken from a 10th-century anthology of Anglo-Saxon poetry, sung in Old English. The piano based 'Ƿrætlic honᵹað' will be instantly recognisable as it's played in a familiar boogie woogie style.

'Dogen Songs' represents minimalist poems by 13th-century Japanese Zen monk Dogen Zenji.

'Spring and All' collects together a selection of William Carlos Williams's poems.

Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Summer Songs' are treated to elaborate lyrical phrasings and an almost neo-Romantic tonality taking the reins.

Also included are tracks inspired by contemporary American poet Lia Purpura's ('Three Songs for Autumn') and 'Soir d'Hiver (Winter Evening)' which produce poetic sketches of wintertime hardship and barrenness by several different poets such as Rilke and Verlaine.

The one highlight for me was the piano piece in 'Holy Sonnets of John Donne - Death Be Not Proud'.


Darren Rea

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