There have been some resounding notices in the press for our Smyth recording over the past two weeks, and the latest is in The New Yorker (scroll to the wonderful illustration by Milica Golubović). We are thrilled and honored by these reviews – and glad to see this important composer discussed so robustly and with such celebration of her music itself.
This week’s New Yorker reads:
The world-première recording of “The Prison,” a choral symphony written in 1930 by the English composer Ethel Smyth, arrives as demands for a more representative, equitable canon are mounting. For too long, Smyth has been relegated to footnote status: an ardent suffragist who was jailed for her efforts and a prominent lesbian, she wrote what was, until 2016, the only work by a female composer to be staged at the Metropolitan Opera (“Der Wald,” in 1903). “The Prison” exerts a metaphysical gravity, not just because of the text by Henry Brewster but also because Smyth’s music calls to mind Brahms, Elgar, and even Mahler at their most visionary and searching. The conductor James Blachly elicits splendid work from the vocal soloists, Sarah Brailey and Dashon Burton, and from the Experiential Orchestra and Chorus.
— Steve Smith
Planet Hugill’s 5-star review adds:
James Blachly draws a richly sophisticated and evocative performance from everyone. It is perhaps a tribute to the skill of all concerned that we are left pondering not the performance, but the work itself.
There is something, perhaps, slightly uniform about the atmosphere of the work yet Smyth weaves into this some glorious moments and Blachly paces things well so that the music does ebb and flow. The result is thoughtful, almost contemplative and finely structured, it is full of qualities that we don’t immediately associate with Smyth who as a character gusts through cultural history with energy, vigour and great directness. This recording will, I hope, lead to something of a reassessment…
As a reminder, we are inviting all donors and supporters of this recording to a Zoom CD release celebration on August 18th at 7:30pm, featuring our soloists, orchestra, and chorus. To join, register here.
For those of you who wish to hear the recording and recommend it to others, this link provides samples and streaming services (Spotify, etc.). Chandos is compiling notices as they come in here under “reviews.”
We hope to see you on Tuesday August 18th at 7:30pm!
Music Director, Experiential Orchestra