Nicky Spence

Buxton Orr: Songs


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WITHOUT making it sound like missionary work by Scotland's ridiculously prolific Delphian label, this is a very important release. Dumfries-born tenor Nicky Spence is the first singer to record a whole album of the songs of Glasgow-born composer Buxton Orr (1924-1997), who taught at the Guildhall and whose other compositions include the soundtrack of the 1959 film of Tennessee Williams's Suddenly Last Summer, starring Elizabeth Taylor.

The diversity of his art songs is quite astonishing. From 1962, here are his six fun Songs of Childhood, setting Scots verse, and from a year later the radical Canzona with clarinet and string trio accompaniment, using texts by Blind Harry, John Skinner, and (possibly) King James I of Scotland. He gives pianist Iain Burnside a virtuoso task on The Ballad of Mr & Mrs Discobbolos (text by Edward Lear), and requires similar skill from SCO principle double bass Nikita Naumov on the astonishing Ten Types of Hospital Visitor, a suite both comedic and profound using poems by Charles Causley.

Beautifully captured at Crear in Argyll by Delphian's Paul Baxter, with clarinettist Jordan Black and members of the Edinburgh Quartet adding their instrumental talent, there are occasional idiosyncrasies in Spence's performances, but nothing to diminish a superb showcase for Buxton Orr.

Keith Bruce