Fair Albion: Visions of England
The Brno Chamber Orchestra / The Duke Quartet
Julian Lloyd WEbber, Claire Jones, Elin Manahan Thomas, Patrick Hawes
A collection of new works from Patrick Hawes that are poignant and heartfelt.
Adopted favourite of Classic FM, the continuing rise of Patrick Hawes is one of the most remarkable stories of recent years. Yet from the evidence on this disc, it is easy to understand why. Whether espousing a form of mind-numbingly nostalgic neo-conservatism or breathing old life into new music, it is difficult to ignore the fact that Hawes has hit upon a powerful and persuasive musical formula.
"Fair Albion" is a recording of benign simplicity and unadorned directness. Employing a wide range of forces - solo voice, harp, cello, piano, string quartet, chamber orchestra and choir - Hawes conjures up vivid images of the English countryside by drawing upon its indigenous literary, poetic and religious traditions. The Latin settings come closest to evoking a "generic" English choral sound, however, with the Requiem aeternam and Cantate Domino in particular suggesting Rutter. But a more personal and occasionally poignant idiom is communicated in the solo and chamber works. Elin Manahan Thomas's lyric soprano voice provides the ideal vehicle for Hawes's neo-Baroque setting of George Herbert's The Call. Reflexionem for cello and harp is given a similarly uplifting treatment by Julian Lloyd Webber, solidly supported throughout by Claire Jones. Her lithe rendition of How Hill provides one of the highlights of the disc....Whether there's more to Hawes's neo-pastoral programmatic music than meets the eye remains to be seen; but the highly evocative Quanta qualia, which closes the disc, communicates a heartfelt honesty that speaks for itself.
Pwyll ap Sion, Gramophone Magazine, 3/1/2010