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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

LEBRECHT LISTENS | What Can You Do With 3 Sopranos And 2 Altos? Be inventive, That’s What

By Norman Lebrecht on March 27, 2020

Papagena

Hush! (Somm Recordings)

★★★★☆

🎧 Spotify | Apple Music | Amazon

What can you do with 3 sopranos and 2 altos? Be inventive, that’s what.

The all-women quintet Papagena have come up with a range of unaccompanied songs, settings and original commissions that often takes the breath away. Don Macdonald’s Moonset, for instance, does just what the title says: it sinks, gently, bringing hope of a new day, a breath of fresh air. Libby Larsen’s Jack’s Valentine declares ‘I love you’ with just the right degree of equivocation. Sweet Child O’Mine is a Guns N Roses hit reset for a capella voice — magic.

Papagena-Hush

Apart from Larsen, David Lang, Tchaikovsky and Gustav Holst, I don’t recognise any of the composers selected and sit with ears wide open waiting to be surprised. More even than the music it’s the juxtapositions that deliver the thrills of discovery. I find that one of the songs is by the Times columnist Caitlin Moran, from an opening line by Rudyard Kipling. Now, that’s unexpected.

The singers, as named on their website, are Lizzie Drury, Suzie Purkis, Abbi Temple, Sarah Tenant-Flowers and Suzzie Vango. I want to hear them live.

To read more from Norman Lebrecht, follow him on Slippedisc.com.

Norman Lebrecht’s new book Genius and Anxiety is available now.

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Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.
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