This engaging release comes in the form of a digital single only but demonstrates that often good things come in small packages. Poston was best known for writing for BBC television and radio and for her carols, but this treasurable chamber work shows off her range to good effect. The combination of instruments, whilst unusual, works extremely well and clearly the composer was inspired by the possibilities thrown up by it. I was frequently reminded of Britten’s writing for The Turn of the Screw though the mood of Poston’s piece is more sunny and pastoral.
The piece is cast in four short movements with the final Vivace giving way to a more plaintive epilogue before a final flourish.
It opens in rather Debussyan mood and with more than a hint of mystery. There is a subtle tang to the dissonances too – this isn’t blandly pretty music. Throughout there is a rather muted but spiky humour at play but also darker shadows.
The slow second movement is full of languor and longing. Poston the effective writer of carols crafts a genuinely memorable melody for the opening. There is a ballad like feel to proceedings and Poston scores everything with great finesse. The ending of the movement is hauntingly lovely.
The third movement gives Britten a run for his money in terms of evoking fairyland. The harp writing in particular shows rare imagination before disappearing into the ether.
Convivium wrap the Korros Ensemble up in warm, resonant sound that allows the harp in particular to glitter against a generous acoustic and put us in their debt for their imaginative programming.
I picked this release up out of idle curiosity about a composer I didn’t recognise and was, as I am sure can be told, delighted and surprised by what I found. This may not be a heavy weight work but, in its own unpretentious way, it works wonders. It definitely made me wonder what other delights lie lingering in drawers and cupboards from her pen. I hope there is an album’s worth somewhere.