Wonderful reviews flood in for Sadie Harrison’s Prima Facie album, ‘Return of the Nightingales’
Guy Rickards from Musical Opinion sees ‘the music itself as varied as the performers, consisting of one large single movement—the title track, Return of the Nightingales (2013)—plus sets of smaller pieces of varying lengths and complexity, and, to finish, a clutch of occasional pieces celebrating two students (one from Afghanistan) and her former teacher, Nicola Lefanu. Harrison’s interest in the music of the far Middle East is long established and Return of the Nightingales, atmospherically performed by Ian Pace here, was inspired by the removal of the Taliban’s ban on music in Afghanistan. The use of taped birdsong is the direct metaphor of this, Harrison’s own invention emerging from it, weaving around and finally merging back into the natural sound. Par-feshani- ye ‘eshq (The fluttering wings of love, 2013-4), followed on close after that, six miniature meditations, poetic essays in sonority, on couplets of the Sufi poet Bidel. Renée Reznek performs them with the subtle delicacy they deserve, being rather less robust in form than Return.
The works on this album also document Harrison’s return to composition following a compositional silence from 2006 to 2012: one song in 2008 and a small piece for clarinet and piano aside in 2011. The four nocturnes that comprise Lunae were the vanguard of the flood of pieces that then poured out of her pen and each takes a pre-existing piece and extemporises upon it, the composers being respectively John Law, Dowland (Lachrymae, of course), Debussy and Messiaen combined and a medieval chant…The short-lived William Baines (1899-1922), is evoked in Shadows (2013), epigrammatic line drawings all the more expressive for their restraint, whereas in the 4 Jazz Portraits (2014, featuring Fats Waller, Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk and Albert Ammons), Harrison lets her hair down. These are great fun, affording Philippa Harrison ample scope to display her mastery of boogie-woogie, and much else besides.’
This CD is also seen by Peter Byrom Smith of Sounds Magazine as ‘a box of delights, wrapped up in a musical package’. Through ‘a superb creative mixture of notes, timbre, rhythms, delicate and powerful structures, in equal measure’ and ‘second to none’ performances by the featured pianists, Smith felt that he could ‘hear the music again, well after the disc stops spinning’.
These sentiments are further echoed by Paul RW Jackson, within his British Music Society review, who sees the album’s ‘music as wide ranging in style, expression, emotional content, form and structure.’ With ‘all of the pianists’ excellently ‘conjuring up Ms Harrison’s sound world…, listening to the disc is a rewarding experience.’
Even past the music, Smith describes ‘some greatly artwork’ and a ‘very informative booklet, with programme notes, individual biographies of both composer and the performers.’ This makes Sadie Harrison’s Return of the Nightingales album ‘the total package, and one all record producers/companies should take note of!’
(25 Jan 2018)