J. Dove, Song Cycles, C. Booth, P. Bardon, N. Spence, A. Matthews-Owen
(released on August 12, 2014)
Naxos 8.573080 | 70'40"
Ariel (1998) is the only one of these four cycles that is not receiving its first recording, with texts by Shakespeare drawn from The Tempest, both song texts and spoken lines. Soprano Claire Booth acquits herself well, with just a few signs of scratchy weakness along the way, with no piano to help cover, for the songs have no accompaniment. Dove includes some interesting effects, like the sound of whistling wind or the crash of waves on the shore (a "Shhhhh" noise made by the singer), which appears throughout the cycle, and a big, gulping breath before the line "I drink the air before me" in the last song. The voice bubbles along on its own, seeming to flit mindlessly from thought to unrelated thought, most mesmerizing in the third song, a vocalise on the vowel 'O', which casts a spell. All You Who Sleep Tonight (1996), also sung by Bardon, uses poetry by Vikram Seth, much of it witty epigrams in sing-songy quatrain form. Dove makes them into pleasing miniatures, with a substantial but not overpowering whiff of Broadway and a conclusion that is both tragic and reaffirming.