- Electra Mourns, for mezzo-soprano, english horn & string orchestra
- Once did I breathe another's breath, for baritone & piano
- Geranos, for ensemble
The Indian-born British composer Brian Elias began his career as a follower of the serialist Elisabeth Lutyens, and he has continued to pair rigorous harmonic development of a tonal core announced at the outset with a keen dramatic sense and a feel for text-setting. His works have been performed in high-profile situations such as the BBC Proms, but aside from the small NMC label series of which the present release is a part, recordings of his work have been sparse. This one will give a sense of his music. "Electra Mourns," setting texts by Sophocles, has been rightly hailed and garlanded with awards. It's sung to the hilt here by mezzo-soprano Susan Bickley, with able support in the difficult honking wind parts by the Britten Sinfonia under Clark Rundell. To get started with Elias, though, you might sample one of the unaccompanied songs of "Meet Me in the Green Glen." Elias knits the texts by John Clare together with melodies that, though not tonally organized, make themselves clear to the listener with perfect logic. The unaccompanied song is not an easy genre, and these by Elias will be unlike any others you've heard. A unique feature of the recording is that the five songs were not intended by the composer for a specific voice range; via download, you can hear the two singers, Bickley and baritone Roderick Williams, each sing the whole thing. The opening chamber orchestra work "Geranos," evoking Stravinsky's dance-oriented music in Elias' own style, also has a bracing precision. A recommended way in to an underrated modern British composer.