Hinterland by Simon Heffer
The Saturday Telegraph
18th July 2020
In classical music, there is one label I can always count on.
Of the glories of classical music today is SOMM recordings. Established in 1995 and celebrating its silver jubilee, Somme has concentrated on discovering and rediscovering British composers, while also producing over 300 discs of (among others) Mozart, Beethoven, Janacek, Poulenc and Shostakovich. Its catalogue includes archival material and state-of-the-art recordings. An archive issue first introduced me to Somm in 2007: possibly the finest recording available of Vaughan Williams’ Fifth Symphony, from the broadcast of prom in 1952 with the composer conducting. It also contains a breathtaking account of the same composer’s 1936 Cantata Dona Nobis Pacem, its first broadcast performance, again conducted by Vaughan Williams.
Some recent releases maintain the high and eclectic standards for which Somm is renowned. I wrote here a year ago of Ian Venables, when I had the great privilege of attending the first performance of his Requiem. Somm have recorded it, in a subtle but gripping performance by the choir of Gloucester Cathedral, conducted by Adrian Partington with the organist Jonathan Hope. The work sometimes departs from the normal Requiem template, the music becoming steadily louder during the last section, Lux Aeterna, and ending on an optimistic note. If you think of new English music as hard on the ear and bereft of melody, Venables will force you to reconsider.