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A Summer’s Day

A recital of summer music from England and Sweden

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Catalogue Number: 5060192781144


Little Venice Ensemble’s A Summer’s Day is a kind of sequel to their 2014 Christmas CD, Deck the Halls (also on Stone Records). As Björn Kleiman, the Little Venice Ensemble’s first violin, explains in his liner notes: “Ever since, we have wanted to join forces to record some of our repertoire.” The selections are “taken from our annual summer concert programs that have taken place around Sweden for the past ten years.” The musicians of Little Venice Ensemble (a string quartet often supplemented, as on this recording, by other instruments) have connections both to England and Sweden. A Summer’s Day includes music by composers from both countries. Like Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, the pieces included on A Summer’s Day evoke the languor brought on by the season’s warm sunshine. Still, there are contrasts to be found. The disc opens with the title piece, Nils Lindberg’s setting of Shakespeare’s “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day.” It’s a lovely, tuneful creation, revealing a classical/pop fusion also found in Efter Regnet (After the Rain) by Benny Andersson (of ABBA fame), and Monica Dominique’s Tillägnan (Dedication). All of these songs are sung to perfection by Swedish lyric soprano Susanna Andersson. Her radiant, silvery voice, precise diction, and stylish commitment to the material are all of the first rank. These qualities are also to the fore in Andersson’s rendition of John Duarte’s Five Quiet Songs. Duarte dedicated this work to tenor Peter Pears and guitarist Julian Bream. The poems, by George Meredith, Thomas Hood, Walter de la Mare, Omar Khayyám (translated by Edward Fitzgerald), and Hillaire Beloc, explore mortality and decay. Duarte’s settings inhabit a hypnotic post-Tristan chromatic world. Here, the work is presented in Björn Kleiman’s arrangement for soprano and string quartet. Three Preludes on Welsh Hymn Tunes is a 1940 composition by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Vaughan Williams categorized the work as “Household Music,” to be played by “string quartet, or alternative instruments, and optional horn.” The Three Preludes are representative of the English composer’s affinity for folk music, and his genius at adapting it for classical ensembles. The beautiful performance on this disc features the original string quartet version. Björn Kleiman’s attractive waltz, Lady’s Mantle for flute and string quartet, was premiered in 2014 by Johan Skeppstedt Andersson (Susanna’s brother) and the Van der Pals Quartet. Andersson is also the flutist on this recording. Björn Kleiman serves as arranger once again in his setting for strings of excerpts from Wilhelm Peterson-Berger’s Six Songs for Piano. The Romantic Swedish composer’s recreations of folk melodies shine in these performances. Malcolm Arnold composed his brief Serenade for Guitar and Strings for Julian Bream. Bream was the soloist in the 1955 premiere, conducted by the composer. Here, five stringed instruments take the place of a larger ensemble, accompaniment to guitarist Martin Fogel’s elegant rendition. All of the performances on A Summer’s Day are exemplary; immaculately played, with a keen attention to style and instrumental timbres, and reproduced in gorgeous recorded sound. In addition to Kleiman’s detailed and engaging liner notes, texts and translations are provided for all the vocal pieces. This is a charming, intoxicating disc. Recommended with the utmost enthusiasm. (Fanfare)

I loved The Little Venice Ensemble’s Christmas disc a few years ago, and here’s the delayed follow-up. Mostly recorded in Sweden last winter, this anthology is another euphonious selection of Anglo-Swedish music, reflecting the group’s make up. I’d never encountered Vaughan Williams’s Three Preludes on Welsh Hymn Tunesbefore. They’re unassumingly beautiful, first played in 1941 by a string quartet but designed to be performed by “combinations of all manner of instruments”. A fleet scherzo separates the outer movements, the flattened sevenths in the final bars wholly characteristic. Another rarity is Malcolm Arnold’s delicious little Serenade for Guitar and Strings from 1955, losing nothing in this performance with five solo strings. Written, like Arnold’s Guitar Concerto, for Julian Bream, the idiomatic, unflashy solo writing is typical of Arnold and a lovely blend of Spanish and pastoral English influences. Guitarist Martin Fogel is excellent; you’d buy the CD for this piece alone. Violinist Björn Kleiman’s arrangements of four piano pieces by Wilhelm Peterson-Berger are charmers: folksy, earthy miniatures which do what they do wonderfully well. The third one, “Vest I fjellom” is the standout; suggesting a Swedish Vaughan Williams. Kleiman’s own “Lady’s Mantle” is a small but perfectly proportioned and scored waltz for flute and string quartet. The other numbers feature soprano Susanna Andersson, whose light, clear sound fits the album’s mood perfectly. There’s a song from ABBA’s Benny Andersson, whose “Efter regnet” is a charmer. Equally appealing are the Five Quiet Songs by the British jazz guitarist and composer John Duarte, and the disc ends with Monica Dominique’s lovely “Tillägnan”, an ode to nature in a new arrangement featuring the entire ensemble. A small but perfectly formed album. (The Arts Desk)

Track listing
  1. Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day
  2. Crug-y-bar
  3. St. Denio
  4. Aberystwyth
  5. Dirge in Woods
  6. Silence
  7. An Epitaph
  8. Omar’s Lament
  9. The Birds
  10. Lady’s Mantle
  11. När rönnen blommar
  12. Gångtrall
  13. Vest i fjellom
  14. Spelman
  15. Efter regnet
  16. Serenade for Guitar and Strings
  17. Tillägnan