Gramophone Review

Art songs being among the most intimate of musical expressions, this recording of 24 such works shows Stanley Grill to be an expert craftsman who responds to his chosen texts with utmost sensitivity. And what texts they are: poems by CF Cilliers, Hart Crane, WB Yeats, Rainer Maria Rilke, Paul Verlaine, Federico García Lorca and Carl Sandburg. Such a list might appear intimidating but the words are seamlessly wed to music as set by Grill. The composer’s style is accessible in the most positive sense, with melodic lines that grow from the meaning of the verses and harmonic fabrics of delicate colours and warmth.

Three of the cycles are scored for soprano and piano, while one collection is inventive on several counts: The Violin Sings in a Common Language is a series of conversations for the eponymous instrument and a soprano called upon to negotiate poems in German, French, Spanish, English and Afrikaans (a Haiku by Cilliers, a South African poet). Nancy Allen Lundy brings luminous shadings to these challenges in tandem with the fervent artistry of the violinist Ralph Farris.

Lundy teams with the exceptional pianist Stephen Gosling in the other collections, which range from songs set to poems by Cilliers – whose imagery of ‘rustling flights of wings’ gives the disc its title – to cycles devoted to Crane and Yeats verses. The composer provides enough subtle contrasts in all of this fare to keep the ear entranced. Lundy and Gosling venture deeply into the varied atmospheres of Grill’s keenly shaped miniature dramas.

Written by Donald Rosenberg