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Elizabeth Maconchy and Nicola LeFanu

Chamber music 1960-2002

Nicola Lefanu
Mira Clar Tenebras

Elizabeth Maconchy
Morning, Noon & Night
Five Sketches


Metier MSV CD92064 [71 mins]


Elizabeth Maconchy (Mrs Lefanu, 1907-1994) to whose centenary in 2007 we can look forward, was a notably uncompromising pioneer in British musical life during a period of persistent prejudice against women composers. She was tough minded and needed to be. She continued composing into old age and must have been gratified that a gifted daughter followed in her footsteps. Maconchy wrote in an astringent, controlled idiom, not without wit. An impressive contrapuntalist, her thirteen string quartets hold a proud place in my collection and no doubt her substantial oeuvre will gain from timely revaluation. Perhaps Park Lane Group will not overlook that opportunity?

Maconchy's daughter Nicola Lefanu has carried the torch for emancipation of women composers, many of whom are now well established in no small part due to her efforts.

This collection of alternate works by both composers makes for a satisfying mother and daughter CD, exploiting the potential of the mixed chamber ensemble Okeanos with singers soprano Lesley-Jane Rogers and mezzo Sally Bradshaw.

Lefanu's Lament (1988) pays tribute to Nelson Mandela, still in prison, and to the fate of the Australian Aboriginals after the arrival of the English in 1788. Maconchy 's four deft Reflections (1960) end with a poymetric finale. Lefanu's recent song cycle Mira Clar Tenebras for voice, cor Anglais, viola and harp runs for twenty minutes setting "familiar words, sounds and images in unfamiliar European languages"; how regrettable that in the presentation a little trouble was not taken to print them and their English translations parallel - easy to have done, with page nine of the booklet half empty! Otherwise all up to Metier's high standard; vividly recorded by David Lefeber in Weston, 2003/2004.

© Peter Grahame Woolf