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Michael Hurd: The Aspern Papers & The Night of the Wedding



Michael Hurd was born in Gloucester on 19 December 1928. He studied at Pembroke College, Oxford (1950-53) with Sir Thomas Armstrong and Dr Bernard Rose and became President of the University Music Society. In addition, he took composition lessons from Lennox Berkeley. Following a six-year term (1953-59) as Professor of Music Theory at the Royal Marines School of Music in Deal, he settled in West Liss, Hampshire, dedicating the rest of his life to a variety of musical pursuits - composing, writing, conducting, lecturing and broadcasting. He travelled widely and was a frequent visitor to Australia where he helped to found the Port Fairy Music Festival which staged the first performances of his last two operas. He died in Petersfield, Hampshire on 8 August 2006, at the age of 78.

Michael  Hurd: The Aspern Papers & The Night of the Wedding


"The Night of the Wedding, a slightly risqué 16-minute opera adapted from a theatrical trinket by Frederick Witney. Hurd's manner is light and slightly Frenchifield. Simon Lepper's piano accompaniment prances nicely, and there's a kick to Rhian Lois's soprano." BBC Music Magazine, September 2015

The English composer Michael Hurd (1928–2006) wrote many different kinds of music, most of it vocal. This recording consists of two of his operas: his setting of Henry James’s novellla The Aspern Papers and the 16-minute farce The Night of the Wedding. The first thing that strikes me about Hurd’s music is that he is not afraid to write a tune. Except for the Act II, scene 2 monolog of Juliana, The Aspern Papers has no arias; rather, it is dialog among the characters. But the dialogue is not the typical 20th Century music we hear in so many operas. Hurd writes a lush orchestral score where the voices fit perfectly to very accessible music. One could easily play this recording just to enjoy the music. Yet the drama is not sacrificed, proving that music can be pleasant to listen to and dramatically effective at the same time.
The performance is quite good. All four singers are able to be dramatic yet sing very well. Clare McCaldin is very effective at suggesting the loneliness, sadness, and embarrassment of Miss Tina, the most sympathetic character. Also effective is Louise Winter as the aged Juliana. Pippa Goss creates a believable Mrs Prest in her brief appearances, and Owen Gilhooly projects well the typical American cad of Henry James’s works. None of these roles is terribly difficult, but they do offer fine dramatic and vocal opportunities, making this another opera suitable for conservatory or chamber company production. The Ulster Orchestra plays well under George Vass. The Night of the Wedding is for one soprano and three baritones. It would be a fine choice as a curtain-raiser for a double bill. It is done with piano accompaniment, and all the singers are fine. The recording is an unexpected pleasure. It comes with bios, an essay about the composer, and full text. American Record Guide