Songs to the Moon

Reviewed on Tue 21 Jun, 2016

There are performances of individual distinction – Clara Mouriz in Brahms’s Ständchen and Mary Bevan in Schumann’s Mondnacht, for example. Joseph Middleton reinforces his reputation as the finest accompanist amongst younger generations.

This first recording from The Myrthen Ensemble is a 2-CD presentation of solo and group art songs inspired by the moon. The group was formed by pianist Joseph Middleton with a quartet of his regular vocal collaborators including Mary Bevan, Clara Mouriz, Allan Clayton and Marcus Farnsworth. Warlock, Barber and Maconchy contribute English-language art songs, which are used to introduce each disc. Brahms and Schumann fill the remainder of disc one. There are performances of individual distinction – Mouriz in Brahms’s Ständchen and Bevan in Schumann’s Mondnacht, for example. Were it not for a similar recording from Graham Johnson’s The Songmakers’ Almanac (Hyperion), then The Myrthen Ensemble would be without competition, but Johnson and company come out on top largely due to experience rather than any lack of musicality on the part of these newcomers. The second disc ranges across French-language solos and duets with a greater sense of nuance by Mompou, Hahn, Debussy, Massenet, Duparc, Fauré and Szulc. Clayton proves a useful tenor and Farnsworth a sonorous baritone;, they both complement Bevan and Mouriz with sensitivity. Joseph Middleton reinforces his reputation as the finest accompanist amongst younger generations, keenly realising the inferences that his part brings to the songs. Excellent sound, authoritative notes from Middleton and Richard Stokes, as well as texts and translations add to this rewarding nocturnal journey. Well worth exploring.
–Evan Dickerson