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Andrew Palmer
Group Editor
1:03 AM 21st October 2023
arts
Review

Classical Music: Beyond Twilight Music For Cello And Piano

 
Beyond Twilight Music For Cello And Piano by female composers

Amy E. Horrocks (1867–1919) Twilight (Rêverie); Gwendolen Avril Coleridge-Taylor (1903–1998)Who knows?*; Can sorrow find me?; Margaret Jacobsohn (1875–1971)Romanza*; Isobel Dunlop (1901–1975) Suite: Prelude: Conversation, II. Dance, Elegy; Marie Dare (1902–1976 ) Le Lac*; Romance*; The Spanish Shawl*; Hebridean Suite: Isle Of Jura (Two Impressions I. Summer Sea, II. The Paps Of Jura, The Blue Lochan, A Day Dream, Shieling Song, A Fisherman’s Song; Ivy Parkin (1886–c.1963) Three Pieces:* Aria, Cradle Song, Chanson espagnole; Annie Maria Grimson (1870–1949) Nocturne*; Harriett Claiborne Dixon (1879–1928) Andante Religioso*; Christabel Baxendale (1886–1950) Plaintive Melody*; Ethel Barns (1873–1948) Idylle;
*premiere recordings

Alexandra Mackenzie Cello & Ingrid Sawers piano

Delphian DCD34306
https://www.delphianrecords.com/


This album is rightly titled Beyond Twilight; the talented composers and performers represented on this disc have taken the cello out of the shadows and showcased it in all its wonderful glory, illuminating the instrument in a blaze of morning sunshine. In doing so, the point of the album is, unfortunately, to showcase the flair of female composers - unfortunately, because it is about time that female composers and musicians don’t have to be categorised by their sex.

Every piece abundantly shows the aptitude of the composers for conveying different emotions and recognising the cello’s sonorous textures.

Faced in 2020–21 with an unexpected break from concert life, cellist Alexandra Mackenzie and pianist Ingrid Sawers devoted much time instead to furthering their longstanding interest in unfamiliar repertoire. They trawled through libraries, both online and in person, unearthing a treasure trove of short pieces by female composers, some hiding behind bland initials such as ‘A. E. Horrocks’. In completing this project, they have uncovered a plethora of superb pieces that rightly deserve to be played more often.

Leah Broad, the music historian and author of Quartet: How Four Women Changed the Musical World (2023), points out that the composers on this recording all built their careers in a period of enormous upheaval and change for women’s rights. After decades of unsuccessful peaceful campaigning, the early twentieth century witnessed the rise of the militant suffrage movement.

The responsiveness between Mackenzie’s cello and Sawers’ piano is infused with empathy. This is ably demonstrated in Isobel Dunlop’s rollicking Dance from her Suite. From the outset, the bouncing rhythmic pace is full of electric scales and stunning pizzicato passages. The change of pace in the hauntingly melancholic four-minute Can sorrow find me? by Gwendolen Avril Coleridge-Taylor is another case in point, where the duo catch the wistfulness of the piece or in the foot-tapping habanera of The Spanish Shawl, where their musicianship and accuracy shine through.

Mackenzie makes her instrument sing in all its registers; the tonal, deep sounds are captured with clarity and capaciousness by the recording engineers, ensuring the tone of both instruments is complementary.

Without doubt, Broad’s assertion that the pieces on this album shine a light on the wealth of women’s music-making in the early twentieth century is one that should be welcomed and explored.

Each piece is performed with energy, reflection, and precision. Mackenzie and Sawers' accomplished playing and meticulousness to the composers’ intentions, coupled with a pleasant and diverse programme, means this disc will be enjoyed by more than just devotees of the cello.

Alexandra Mackenzie Cello & Ingrid Sawers
Photo credit foxbrush.co.uk
Alexandra Mackenzie Cello & Ingrid Sawers Photo credit foxbrush.co.uk