With its brilliant fugue finale, Samuel Barber’s heavyweight yet economical Piano Sonata in E flat, Op 26 provides a strong backbone to Summertime (Decca), Isata Kanneh-Mason’s second solo album. This beguiling recital of music by (mainly) American composers, from Earl Wild’s jazz-rag reinvention of Gershwin’s Summertime and I Got Rhythm to Aaron Copland’s super-energetic The Cat and the Mouse, shows the young British pianist’s multifaceted musical personality.
She brings muscularity and grandeur to the Barber, saving her quicksilver, jazzy flamboyance for the Gershwin. Percy Grainger’s arrangement of The Man I Love, from Gershwin’s own piano transcription, languid and sensuous, harmonies sinking lazily, is a gem. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Impromptu No 2 in B minor (in its premiere recording) and three of his 24 Negro Melodies, Op 59 – Deep River, The Bamboula and Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child – provide an expressive, lyrical ending.
Here’s an album of numerous discoveries: the countertenor Iestyn Davies and viol consort Fretwork have joined forces for Lamento (Signum Classics; released later this month), a recital of works by Schütz, Schein, JC Bach and others. This music by German composers, many of whom worked in Italy, dates from the 17th century, before viol consorts were wholly replaced by violins and modern stringed instruments as we know them. The title comes from a work by Johann Christoph Bach, a close musical associate of the Bach family and probably an influence on Johann Sebastian, his younger cousin. Lamento, nearly eight minutes long, a melancholy, tugging skein of dissonant harmonies, is a grief-laden setting from the Lamentations of Jeremiah: “I am drowning in my sins.”
Schütz’s Auf dem Gebirge occupies the same emotional territory: the sorrowing Rachel laments her dead children. If the subject matter is dark, the joy comes from the beauty of Fretwork and Davies’s interpretations, directed from organ and virginals by Silas Wollston (with a contribution, in the Schütz, from countertenor Hugh Cutting). Davies is not only capable of singing about pain and anguish – for contrast, try If (Signum Classics), his other disc with Fretwork – but the purity of his voice, with its rich palette of inflections, and his communication of the text, makes this ideal repertoire for him, and us.