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A Classical Tribute to Linda McCartney

New choral works by nine composers, including Paul McCartney, receive first-class handling.

*** "A GARLAND FOR LINDA" Philippa Davies, flute; Robert Cohen, cello; the Joyful Company of Singers, Peter Broadbent, conductor, EMI Classics

May 21, 2000|RICHARD S. GINELL

Although some rolled their eyes when Paul McCartney decided that he wanted to make an impact in the classical field, there isn't any doubt now that his commitment is genuine. And he is doing some good beyond the scope of his own work, as evidenced by this often touching anthology of new choral pieces by nine of Britain's leading composers.

The death of Linda McCartney in April 1998 of cancer spurred organizer Stephen Connock, conductor Richard Hickox and McCartney to conceive this collection, with all royalties donated to cancer research. Vaughan Williams' modal "Silence and Music" (written for a 1953 anthology '574693447as a quintessentially English launching pad, and despite a sameness in tempo, there is astonishing variety in the musical languages of the nine works, thrown into relief by the way they are sequenced on the disc.

John Tavener's "Prayer for the Healing of the Sick" is typically austere and medieval in tone; John Rutter's "Musica Dei Donum" (with simple flute obbligato), Michael Berkeley's "Farewell" and Richard Rodney Bennett's "A Good-Night" are marked by sweet and comforting melodies; and McCartney's own "Nova" is wracked with uncomprehending anguish. Judith Bingham's "Water Lilies" makes a haunting, impressionistic impact; Roxanna Panufnik's "I dream'd" is harmonically ambiguous; and David Matthews evokes Linda's fighting spirit with the soaring "The Doorway of the Dawn." Giles Swayne takes the most provocative tack, adding flute and cello to make the complex vocal lines of "the flight of the swan" seem even more disembodied and fascinating.

All receive first-class performances from the smooth-as-silk Joyful Company of Singers, captured with the right touch of reverberance in London's All Saints Church.

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