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Berlin Revival of Ethel Smyth's The Prison


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									                Kalin Ivanov

ham Symphony Chorus.                                                           further performances.          straight from the heart. At this performance,
A fine quartet compris-                                                            The Prison is Smyth’s      her intentions were well served by the
ing, Hillevi Martin-                                                           last major work, alth-         baritone, Johannes Schwärsky singing the role
pelto, Jane Irwin, Paul                                                        ough she had been              of The Prisoner and, particularly, by the
Nilon and Iain Paterson                                                       planning to write it for        Soprano Malinda Haslett who had stepped in
set a wonderful standard                                                    almost 20 years before            a short notice to learn the role of His Soul.
in ensemble singing and the                                              finally laying pen to paper,             Typical of Smyth’s style, the scoring is a
orchestra were very much on                                          after the death from cancer of           kaleidoscope of orchestral colours that weave
song. What impressed most though                               the poem’s author, Harry Brewster,             together like warp and weft requiring a deft
was the ‘cleverness’ of the choir. Alternately      her lover and artistic collaborator. The work is          control that was managed excellently by
luring the audience in and then sidestepping        scored for chorus, two soloists and orchestra             conductor Kerstin Behnke with the Nordwest-
at the last moment, layering the dynamics to        and Smyth considered this her finest “the only            deutsche Philharmonie and the Berliner
perfection and taking care to wrap the lips         one of all my works with which I am even                  Capella. Given her crusading efforts to achieve
around every word as though sampling fine           moderately satisfied”. It received its première           equal status for women in the world of prof-
wines for quality, they drew every last drop        in Edinburgh in February 1931 under Dame                  essional music, Dame Ethel would, no doubt,
from the score. Only rarely did they sing full      Ethel herself. Subsequently it was performed              have been delighted by the presence of a
out, though when they did it made everyone          in London (rather badly, by all accounts, with            woman on the rostrum.
sit up and take notice! I’m still not entirely      a sick Boult at the helm) and then again in                   The Berliner Capella specialise in singing
convinced with Noseda’s tempi, which were           Manchester as part of the Smyth 75th                      ‘forgotten’ choral works and will be giving a
inconsistent even within the same movement,         Birthday concert series. The work’s title refers          performance of more of Smyth’s music in June
but, for excitement, commitment and quality,        to the nature of life and death and                                2009. I am indebted to MusicSales for
I for one went home happy.       JOHN BYRNE         concerns a man’s inner discussion                                       the gift of a full score of The
                                                    with his soul.                                The Heath   Quartet           Prison prior to the perf-
    Berlin Revival of Ethel Smyth’s                     Stylistically it lies some-                                                ormance. ROZ TRÜBGER
              The Prison                            where between Debussy
                                                    and Tippett: Pelleas with                                                        YCAT Presentation
    ollowing the revival of Dame Ethel Smyth’s      a touch of a Child of our                                                            Concert
F   Concerto for Violin & Horn at the BBC
Promenade Concerts this summer came another
                                                    Time (the latter was
                                                    written five years after                                                 
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