Richard Blackford: Five Naidu Songs for Mezzo Soprano, Clarinet and String Quartet

Sarojini Naidu’s poems cover a wide range of human experience, from love, ecstasy, delight in the natural world, loneliness, acceptance and praise. These five poems form a cycle of one Indian woman’s experience of lost love, delight in a colourful procession, the thrill of new young love, contemplation of death, and ecstasy at the beauty of creation and the omnipresence of God. Her poetry pulsates with her love of Indian landscapes, seasons and flowers, simple joys, devotion and the splendor of Indian festivals. I chose an accompaniment of string quartet and clarinet to extend and enhance the richness of Naidu’s imagery and the passion she evokes. The clarinet, like a second melodic voice, weaves around the vocal line, sometimes sensuous, sometimes raucous and abandoned, in imitation of the Indian double-reed instrument the shenai. Many of the songs have long introductions, interludes and postludes, where the writing becomes more symphonic than mere accompaniment. [Richard Blackford]

Five Naidu Songs

I A Love Song From The North

II Palanquin Bearers

III If You Call Me

IV The Poet To Death

V In Salutation To The Eternal Peace

Vocal Score Available Separately (NMP1021)

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I first came across composer Richard Blackford relatively recently and had made a point to explore his works further. This work stood out to me partly because of the interesting combination of instruments. The blending of clarinet with string quartet is a well known and effective medium and here Richard doesn't disappoint. The writing for the instruments is well constructed and idiomatic. The inclusion of a mezzo-soprano is like adding the icing to the cake. The vocal range is full and beautifully sits on top of the quintet. The clarinet on occasion acts as a sparing partner with the mezzo-soprano and the two voices blend amazingly well.

The publication is well done with clear and concise parts and full score. The quality of the paper is second to none and is certainly at the level expected for professionals and amateurs alike. Well worth exploring and highly recommended.  Peter Cigleris, clarinettist

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