Hyperion have come up trumps again with another delightful disc of out-of-the-way music. The brainchild of Graham Johnson, it is subtitled "150 Years of English Women Composers", with notes by Sophie Fuller, author of a book due out next year entitled The Pandora Guide to Women Composers. In the course of the programme the performers uncover a host of imaginative, impassioned and/or joyful songs that have lain for too long literally unsung, and revived others that were hugely popular until very recent times. Let me say at once that they couldn't have more perceptive or loving or enthusiastic interpreters than Johnson and Johnson, who excel even their own high standards of singing and playing.
Miles Away, a compilation of songs by Miles Davis. Released in 2008 on Not Now Music. On top of that, the sound is alright, the packaging is elegant (a fold-out digipak, with cool b&w photos of Miles beneath each disc), and we even get brief, informative liner notes. Not Now Music are getting dangerously good at this budget comp thing.
Britain-to-Scotland transplant Sally Beamish wasn't just self-taught as an orchestral composer: you might say she learned by doing. According to her notes on this BIS release, one of a group covering her orchestral output, she had never written an orchestral piece or even studied orchestration when the city of Reykjavik, Iceland, commissioned her Symphony No. 1 in 1994. The result was a work full of unusual sonorities, rather loosely woven but constantly surprising, that drew on various features (formal and textural, not tonal) of the music of Scotland.