The British-Iranian composer, artist and record player Shiva Feshareki is at home in many musical disciplines, embracing all varieties of technology and harnessing them, with relentless invention, to his own extensive classical training. His new album turn the world (NMC) the current ethereal world (2021), recorded live at last year’s BBC Proms. With Feshareki on turntables and electronics, Kit Downes (organ), the BBC Singers and conductor Sofi Jeannin, etheric world uses natural harmonics and overtones for a mysterious and hypnotic effect.
The title refers to the “fifth element of alchemical chemistry and primitive physics”, believed to be the key to existence by medieval alchemists and others. Whether you follow all of this or not, the sounds are beautiful and haunting.
The other work on this album is Fixed point (1948-9), by electronics pioneer Daphne Oram. A lost thought but now performed by Feshareki and James Bulley with the London Contemporary Orchestra (conductor Robert Ames), this haunting work sounds decidedly melodic and tonal at first, but Oram’s experimental use of orchestra, l Live electronics and turntables (Feshareki composed the turntable part following Oram’s original handwritten instructions) hint at the direction she was headed: in 1958 she co-founded the famous BBC Radiophonic Workshop. British electronic music has found a voice.
Mezzo-soprano Helen Charlston Battle cry: she speaks (Delphian), with theorbo player Toby Carr, combines 17th century music with a new cycle of songs from Owain Park. The recital, which opens with Henry Purcell’s “O lead me to some calm gloom” and features works by Barbara Strozzi, Giovanni Kapsberger, Monteverdi and others, challenges the old platitude of the abandoned, unhappy woman. Think of Dido, Ariane, Boudicca.
Charleston‘s take – saying that the argument would give the wrong impression; there’s no rant here, it’s because in their abandonment they also find strength. Several of the songs, such as Strozzi’s L’Eraclito amoroso and La Travagliata, have their own internal drama. Carr’s theorbo playing is sensuous and lively, and works especially well in the sonic explorations of Park’s four songs. Charlston’s distinctive and expressive lower register and the clarity of every word contribute to an exceptional record.