The album Mirages: The Art of French Song (Champs Hill), with the baritone Roderick Williams and pianist Roger Vignoles, grew out of a Wigmore Hall recital, recreating the intimacy and shape of a concert programme to delicious effect. In no area of repertoire, it seems, is Williams not at ease as well as expert. Recent Schubert song cycles (with pianist Iain Burnside) and English repertoire stand out in his varied discography. Now, with Vignoles as an ever idiomatic and responsive partner, he has turned to French song.
Opening with the sensual mystery of late Fauré – four songs, including Reflets dans l’eau and Danseuse – the duo steer gracefully to atmospheric ballads by Debussy’s friend André Caplet, spiky Arthur Honegger miniatures and Ravel in Spanish mood (Don Quichotte à Dulcinée). Williams’s own idiomatic, semi-declamatory Verlaine settings, Les ténèbres de l’amour (1994), form an effective bridge to more Honegger, Poulenc and, in perfect conclusion, Debussy’s Beau Soir.
Ennio Morricone, orchestrator, conductor, trumpeter but above all composer of scores for more than 400 films, died in 2020, aged 91. Had he stopped his cinema career after The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) or The Mission (1986), he would still be famous, his music plundered, borrowed, recreated in every genre from hip-hop and reggae to jazz and classical. A new album, Ennio Morricone: Cinema Suites for Violin and Orchestra (Arcana), conducted by his son Andrea Morricone, invites us to enter the dreamlike atmosphere of his scores as music alone, those haunting theme tunes given subtle orchestration and new colour.
Performed by his longtime collaborator, violinist Marco Serino, with the Orchestra Haydn di Bolzano e Trento, it features arrangements Morricone had made since the 1980s, revising them late in his life. The process was interrupted by his death and finished, in tribute, by Serino. A must for film music devotees but interesting, too, as a testament.