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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Ellen Nisbeth, Bengt Forsberg, Let Beauty Awake, Vaughan Williams, Clarke, Britten

Let Beauty Awake (BIS 2183 SACD). As the title suggests, violist Ellen Nisbeth and pianist Bengt Forsberg treat us to some five modern 20th century English works of pronounced beauty. That is most inherent in the scores by Vaughan Williams, Rebecca Clarke, and Britten. It is most apparent in the exquisite performances by the talented Nisbeth and her nearly perfect foil Forsberg.

This is not neo-romantic beauty so much as it is English, sometimes slightly rustic and slightly plaintive post-impressionist sturdiness.

Ralph Vaughan Williams starts things off with "Five Songs from 'Songs or Travel" (transcribed for viola and piano) and his "Romance for Viola and Piano."

Rebecca Clarke, a composer seemingly undergoing a pronounced resurgence, makes a splash with "Sonata for Viola and Piano," something a bit more formal and ambitious but equally evocative.

Benjamin Britten has the last say with his "Third Suite for Cello" transcribed for viola and wonderfully well done by Ms. Nisbeth. The final "Lachrymae for Viola and Piano" tops all off with completely striking affective fare.

Nisbeth has ravishing tonal breadth that runs from achingly sweet to dramatically dark. She is ever in control, phrasing like an angel or singing with rough passion. The five works on the recital disc seem especially made for the gamut of her lyric spectrum of expression. And there is a very Englishness to the works which reminds us why last century was such a fertile one for the region, filled with remarkable composing talents. 

With the final notes we feel as if we have been transported to a rare musical place where lyric strength and fragility is given near ideal, long shrift. Nesbeth and Forsberg seem born to this music. And the selection of works hang together with a complete fittingness.

Remarkable music, remarkably played.

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