When I was a young girl, I used to listen to a lot of records with musical stories, a mix of a storytelling with music and songs. I would sit and listen, mesmerised and spellbound, lost in the world of fairy tales and classic fiction for children. I have re-visited my childhood memories recently, listening to The Phantom Listeners album by Lydia Kakabadse.
This creative album is also a mix of a narrative and music, very much influenced by the Russian and Middle Eastern traditions.
Lydia Kakabadse is a British composer, of Georgian/Russian and Greek/Austrian parentage. This rich cultural heritage has influenced her creative writing.
The Mermaid is a composition based on a fairy tale written by Lydia Kakabadse. It is a combination of the narration, piano, strings and mezzo-soprano.
Mermaid Persephone is much loved by the sea creatures known as "cherubs of the sea". She is captured by the pirates, and sings from the boat, calling to her friends. The cherubs of the sea come to her rescue. The drama is represented by the musical score in its beautiful variety which stirs your imagination.
This is a very theatrical performance, and I can just see it on stage.
My favourite piece from the album was Russian Tableaux. Most beautiful, haunting melodies made me think of Russia with its incredible cultural heritage and turbulent, often tragic history.
I. Mother Volga: The river Volga, often called Matushka Volga (Mother Volga), has a symbolic meaning in Russian culture. This river has been a source of inspiration for many folk songs, tales and poems. It can be serene or stormy, always powerful. Kakabadse's work pays homage to the majestic river with the most accomplished score. The main theme is poetic and brings to mind the images of the Volga river.
|Photo Credit: Katve. via Compfight cc|
III. Dance of the Matryoshka Dolls is a lively tune with a fast-changing tempo. This is a dance melody of the Russian dolls, of all sizes.
|Photo Credit: Pale Amber via Compfight cc|
I was very impressed to read that Lydia started composing in her early teens. One of the songs in the album, The Song of the Shirt, was composed by Lydia when she was 15. She was inspired by the pensive poem of Thomas Hood, which tells the story of a poor woman dressed in rags, who has to sew endlessly. This is a melancholic plaintive composition.
With fingers weary and worn,
With eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sat in unwomanly rags,
Plying her needle and thread –
Stitch! Stitch! Stitch!
In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
And still with a voice of dolorous pitch
She sang ‘The Song of the Shirt!’
|Jean-Francois Millet, Woman Sewing by Lamplight|
Arabian Rhapsody Suite is scored for string quartet (violin, viola, cello, double bass). It was composed in 2007-2008. The composer captured the rich folk traditions of the Orient, with its mystique, throbbing energy and distinctive melodies. There are 3 chapters: Marrakesh, Reverie and Sultan's Feast. Each is scored for string quartet (violin, viola, cello and double bass).
For soprano, mezzo-soprano, baritone, narrator, church pipe organ, percussion, and strings, The Phantom Listeners was created in 2005-2007. This musical piece was based on Walter de la Mare's poem The Listeners. The story is told in 6 chapters: The Traveller's Message, Secrets of the House, The Traveller Returns, The House Rages, Reunited and Epilogue. It is a dark and quite sinister narrative, with themes of death, spells, shadowy world, and the musical mood is often mournful and darkly complex.
This passionate and inspirational album is a modern classic.
I have two copies of The Phantom Listeners to give away to my blog readers.
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