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The subtitle for this programme, put together by trumpeter Deborah Calland and critic Barry Millington, could be Alma Schindler and her obsessives. The young mezzo, Rozanna Madylus, has an unusual and somehow old-fashioned sound, rich but with a hint of expressionist cabaret, which is just right for these songs. Their atmosphere, whether created by Alma in the first four or her lovers in others, is almost suffocating: Vienna at its most self-fascinated. The couple of minutes of instrumental miniatures by Webern and David Matthews reinforce the claustrophobia. Casken’s Kokoschka’s Doll, with a text by Millington, is drawn from artist Oskar Kokoschka’s letters and autobiography, reflecting his two-year relationship with Alma and its demise in 1914. In this near 40-minute singspiel Sir John combines the skills of a fine narrator with still resonant bass lyricism. Casken’s achievement is to make the quartet of violin (Fenella Humphreys), trumpet, saxophone (Kyle Horch) and piano sound like a much bigger ensemble, and to write in such a way that it feels of our time while catching the atmosphere of Schoenberg and Webern’s writing in the period of the affair it is describing. This a rewarding and fascinating disc, showing the best sort of curatorship.

Simon Mundy Read the full review on Agora Classica


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