Songs: Sacred and profane, tender, consoling, witty, urbane.
SOMM Recordings is delighted to announce Hush!, the second release by the “extraordinary voices” (BBC Radio 3) of female quintet Papagena following their internationally acclaimed, Amazon classical chart-topping debut, The Darkest Midnight (SOMMCD 0189).
Hush! unearths a treasure trove of songs largely neglected on disc to deliver a stunning follow-up to The Darkest Midnight. Where it hymned the cold, harsh glamour of sun-starved winter, Hush! – playful, poignant, poetic and primed with the expectation of joy – celebrates the warmth and light of love.
Typically for Papagena, Hush! is a centuries-spanning, genre-defying, culturally diverse recital marrying sacred and secular, ancient and modern, classical, traditional and even stadium rock. The result is an often gorgeous, always intelligent exploration of “hush” as a harbinger of consolation, of tranquil release and of mild admonition to pause, listen, feel and relish the quietly exultant glories of being alert and alive to the fleeting moment.
Papagena’s beautifully blended, pristine vocal signature illuminates ecstatic heights, anguished depths and love in all its multi-hued splendour with a becoming thread of wit and humour.
First recordings include The Woman’s ‘If’, Jim Clements’ knowing setting of Caitlin Moran’s wickedly arch re-imagining of Rudyard Kipling’s If from a modern female perspective, Papagena’s Suzzie Vango’s arrangement of American rock icons Guns N’Roses’ anthemic Sweet Child O’Mine and Geoffrey Weaver’s exquisite re-working of Tchaikovsky’s touching depiction of the Christ-child, Legend (The Crown of Roses). Traditional songs from English and Celtic sources are heard alongside pieces drawn from the profoundly moving religious heritage of Eastern Europe and Sephardic music.
Hailed by arts site The Prickle as “a young female Hilliard Ensemble”, Papagena’s The Darkest Midnight was judged “stimulating, varied and full of interest” by MusicWeb International, adding: “What sets the disc apart is the superb singing [of] an outstanding ensemble”.
On This Recording
Don Macdonald (b.1966)
- Shen Khar Venakhi†
Trad. Georgian arr. Sarah Tenant-Flowers
- Hamisha Asar†
Flory Jagoda (b.1926) arr. Suzzie Vango
- Legend (The Crown of Roses)*
Pyotr Ill’ych Tchaikovsky arr. Geoffrey Weaver
- Sub O Salcie
Romanian arr. Ayanna Woods
- Otche Nash
- Ek Rizis
- O Viridissima Virga
John Duggan (b.1963)
- The Snow it Melts the Soonest
Trad. English arr. Winnie Brückner
- The Swallow Leaves Her Nest
- Sweet Child O’Mine*
Guns N’Roses arr. Suzzie Vango
- Cor Mio
- Jack’s Valentine
Libby Larsen (b.1950)
- Mouth Music
Trad. Celtic trans. Dolores Keane, John Faulkner
- Sigh No More Ladies
Jetse Bremer (b.1959)
- I Lie
David Lang (b.1957)
- Kakwa Moma
Trad. Bulgarian arr. Uwe Knorrn
- The Woman’s ‘If’*
Jim Clements (b.1983), Caitlin Moran (b. 1975)
- Changeling’s Lullaby†
Gavin Davenport (b.1975), Jess Arrowsmith (b.1977) arr. Papagena
†First Commercial release
“As well as singing some intensely beautiful music Papagena demonstrate their sense of fun in this programme. … Throughout the nineteen tracks on this CD Papagena sing with flawless tuning and ensemble. But these performances are about much more than studied accuracy; that can only get you so far. The singing on this disc evidences sensitivity, wit, no little feeling and, at times, exuberant joy. It’s a carefully and imaginatively crafted programme, superbly executed. Furthermore, since I reviewed their last disc I’ve had the chance to see and hear the group perform live. There is, of course, a great deal of difference between a studio recording and a live performance but I can definitely say that anyone purchasing this disc will get a very good idea of what the group sounds like when stimulated by an audience. … This is another winner from Papagena. More, please!” —John Quinn, MusicWeb International (Recommended Recording)
“Note the exclamation mark: this collection of ‘songs sacred and profane, tender, consoling, witty, urbane,’ isn’t a collection of bland background ditties meant to soothe in troubled times, but something a little sharper, more pointed. … The group’s versatility and flexibility amazes, their ability to inhabit diverse styles remarkable. The vocal blend is never too homogenous and smooth. It’s unfair to single any member out, though altos Suzie Purkiss and Sarah Tenant-Flowers add a thrilling weight to Papagena’s sound. There’s a brilliant example near the album’s close when we segue from Bulgarian folk music to a Bowie-referencing Caitlin Moran setting. … Very good sound too, the studio acoustic ensuring that the finer details don’t get lost in a sea of reverb.” —Graham Rickson, The Arts Desk
“Taking a King’s Singers approach to mixing repertoire, the group slip easily from Georgian and Sephardic folk songs to English part-songs, music by Scarlatti and Tchaikovsky and a generous selection of new works, with even a cheeky foray into rock with Guns N’ Roses. The musical reinventions are not just plausible, they’re often arrestingly good. … every breath and detail of tone is on show, particular in more fragmented, textural numbers such as David Lang’s I lie. It’s an exhilarating, unworked sound and leaves you marvelling at the singers’ technical control and precise blend.” —Alexandra Coghlan, GramophoneGramophone