...The festival’s other major premiere was of Kenneth Hesketh’s Shimmerwords and Idle Songs. Elizabeth Watts (soprano) and Gary Matthewman (piano) relished the six brilliantly contrived settings of Tang-period Chinese poetry.

The Times
October 17, 2007
Hilary Finch

"Shimmerwords and Idle Songs", dating from 2007 sets Chinese poetry, mostly Po Chu-i with one verse of Zhi Qingyu. The poems discuss travel, the joys of nature, commentaries on imperial society and musings on the transience of life. The composer notes that Shimmerwords is a cluster of stars in Ursa Major, but also a celestial incarnation of the literary arts and that ‘idleness’ is a concept central to Taoism, where it is a meditative state of being at one with everyday life.

The piano- and vocal-writing is alert and intricate, matching the crystallised beauty of the Chinese verses; slow and exquisite, sometimes angular phrases, activity and wonder, the piano-part glistening with exuberant effects. Dexterity from singer and pianist is required. The collection ends with a long piano solo of reserved sparseness.

February 1, 2008
Dominic Nudd
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