New Love Must Rise: Selected Songs Of Margaret Ruthven Lang, Vol. 2

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Close your eyes, lean back and enjoy!

In October last year, I reviewed for MusicWeb International, the first volume of songs by American composer Margaret Ruthven Lang. She was unknown to me at the time, and naturally, I had never heard her music. Little did I know that I was in for a treat! Indeed, Volume I of Lang’s selected songs was a very pleasant surprise. The music was exquisite and beautifully matched the lyrics. It made me think: where on Earth had this composer been hiding all my life! For me, it was a revelation, which was why I selected it as one of my Recordings of the Year 2011. I have been anticipating the launch of the second volume. Well, it is here now, under the charming title of New Love Must Rise. I am very pleased to say that it does not disappoint; on the contrary, if anything, it is even better than the first.

In a brief interview to me, via e-mail, tenor Donald George, who performs the songs with pianist Lucy Mauro in both volumes, said of Lang’s work: “The songs are simple, eminently singable and enjoyable. They work in the singing voice”. For me, this is exactly why the songs have an instant appeal and the reason why one is happy to listen to them repeatedly. As with the first CD, the songs are organised into topics: The Garden, The Twilight, Nonsense Rhymes and Pictures and Tomorrow and a Lullaby. The recording opens with On an April Apple Bough; a gorgeous piece and one of my favourites in Volume II. Although not the most difficult to perform, its heart-warming, poetic melody immediately has you hooked! All the other songs within the Garden topic are equally beautiful but there are two that stand out and which I would describe as two mini-masterpieces. The first, I Knew the Flowers Had Dreamed of You, is delicate and lyrical. The second, Nameless Pain, sets a poem by Thomas Bailey Aldrich, where the music perfectly illustrates the poetry. It is vibrant, poignant and powerful all at the same time; if you close your eyes, you can almost feel the summer wind or the scent of the rose and sense the nameless pain of the poet.

These two precious gems are by no means unique. The second topic, The Twilight, begins with another of these little treasures, Song in the Songless. This is on a poem by George Meredith from “A Reading of Life”. It is an extraordinary piece, emotionally very expressive, almost operatic. It is probably one of the most difficult to sing but also one of the most effective dramatically. It works almost like a duet between the voice and the piano. Donald George does it justice and has here the opportunity of showcasing an excellent technique, with some very warm, confident high notes, a very fine crescendo and the right level of sentiment. The piano line is exquisite and engaging, particularly on its own when responding to the voice. Lucy Mauro’s delicate touch and flawless technique give us a luminous sound of great beauty, adding to the emotional impact of the song.

Besides the abovementioned little masterpieces, there is much to enjoy and admire. All the songs within the second topic, The Twilight, are simply adorable; often evocative of a certain romantic atmosphere that adds to the general charm. Then, there is the very funny, at times witty group of Nonsense Rhymes and Pictures, effectively performed by George and Mauro with humour and a real sense of fun. I felt like jumping in and singing along! The last topic, Tomorrow and a Lullaby, is perhaps, from my perspective, as a linguist, the most fascinating section of the recording. It includes a song in German Lied der Nebenbuhlerin and one in French Lament. These songs are not better than the ones in English but it is remarkable how well Lang is able to compose to languages that were not her own. It shows her versatility, knowledge and sensibility.

Tenor Donald George and pianist Lucy Mauro are in this CD, as in the first, in fine form. The musical rapport between them is transparent throughout, as is their obvious admiration for the composer. They revel in the music; their sheer delight is contagious and, like me, you will suddenly realise that you are smiling, all alone in a room, for no apparent reason!

I could go on forever, describing the intricate beauty of Margaret Lang’s songs, one by one, but then, this review would become far too long! To summarise: the songs of the second volume are as admirable as the ones of the first. Lang’s music is full of appealing melodies and sophisticated harmonies but most of all, the songs have a freshness, an innocence of days gone by. They are often deceptively simple but the more one listens, the more one grasps their delicate complexity. This collection of little musical treasures comes, yet again, in an attractive, colourful package as delightful as the music. There are some very interesting, informative notes, on the composer and her songs, written by Lindsay Kooth.

Finally, I would like to end by making a simple suggestion: Get the recording, close your eyes, lean back and enjoy!

-- Margarida Mota-Bull, MusicWeb International

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: DE 3410

  • UPC: 013491341026

  • Label: Delos

  • Composer: Margaret Ruthven Lang

  • Performer: Donald George, Lucy Mauro