- Only the Sound Remains, for viola & chamber orchestra
- The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, for baritone & chamber ensemble
The style of the British composer Howard Skempton was once described as "the emancipation of the consonance," with highly compact, economical works that brought to mind the serialist past, but used consonant intervals (although not placing them in tonal relationships), often in a unique, nine-note scale. In the two works recorded here, the description still rings true, although both are more than half-an-hour long. Without question the main attraction, and an absolute delight, is "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," a poem unsuited to musical treatment if there ever was one. Skempton uses a slightly cut version of the text, but all the famous lines are there (and you might sample "water, water, everywhere, and not a drop to drink"). His setting is for baritone, piano quintet, horn, and double bass, but that makes it sound more lush than it is; each instrument has a very sparse part. Despite this sparsity, and despite the unchanging rhythm of Coleridge's quatrains, the narrative drama of the poem is realized in full. Much of the credit goes to baritone Roderick Williams, who is fully aware of the restricted palette he is painting with. "Only the Sound Remains," an instrumental work for viola and ensemble, is not quite such a tour de force, but the hypnotic counterpoint in its final stages is beautiful indeed. Highly recommended, and entirely deserving of the perhaps unexpected commercial success the album has found.