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So much larger than life that she exists as Edith Staines in E.F. Benson’s Dodo tales, and as Dame Hilda Tablet in Henry Reed’s hilarious radio plays, Smyth hasn’t always been treated with due seriousness. Ninety years after its Edinburgh premiere, The Prison is here recorded for the first time, and with total seriousness, by the Experiential Orchestra and Chorus. It follows a philosophical meditation by Henry Bennett Brewster recounting the thoughts of a man in solitary confinement, revisiting his life and preparing for death. At the end of her own musical life – deafness drove her to literature instead – Smyth was much influenced by neo-Platonism and appended a line from Plotinus to The Prison, suggesting that music was a means to releasing the divine in us. Soloists and chorus convey that very well, sustaining a tension between physicality and spirit that gives the recording an almost Mahlerian quality.

BRIAN MORTON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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