Michael Hurd: The Aspern Papers & The Night of the Wedding
"TheThe late John McCabe, attending the first performance of The Aspern Papers at the Port Fairy Spring Festival in Australia in 1995, described the work as “a thoughtful and rather moving exposition of a human situation that was unusual in operatic terms but nonetheless engrossing … I felt it was a sincere and deeply-felt response to the subject matter and deserved to be heard again. Hurd’s timing in The Aspern Papers is impeccable. He allows just enough time for the stage directions to be carried out, never extending these to display the virtues of his orchestral writing but at the same time never cutting short the meditation over final tableaux in the manner that seems to elude so many modern composers. In short, The Aspern Papers seems to me to be a masterpiece which richly deserves revival: not only Hurd’s longest work for the stage, but also his finest. It would not stretch the resources of adventurous amateur operatic societies – and Hurd was a great believer in writing for the talents of amateurs. At the same time we must be eternally grateful, yet again, to Lyrita for allowing us to hear a score that could all too easily have been allowed to rust away in obscurity. MusicWeb-International
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
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.