Susan, many thanks for taking the time to talk to us about your latest Chandos CD.
How did you come about choosing the repertoire for this album?
Edward Gardner and I first worked together under the extremely emotionally stressful conditions at English National Opera when he took over the helm of Riders to the Sea the week that Richard Hickox died, in Fiona Shaw's production. It was therefore an amazing, almost fated decision of Ralph Couzens to invite me to record this disc. Having worked extensively with Richard Hickox over many years especially on many recordings with Chandos, his loss has had a profound effect on me and my work; this has informed my reading of the Finzi Dies Natalis, which I have always found musically never relates to how people describe the text (as childhood's experience of the world). Finzi's music speaks so differently and with so much sense of experience. It was born within a young bereaved man (he had lost brothers, father and importantly his teacher.) In this light and singing the work during this year of bereavement for Richard, I made a profound discovery that this piece speaks of recovery. Recovery after loss. It is like a new dawning in one's perception of the glory of being alive in this world. Finzi intentionally cut out a lot of the religious references in the text which makes it all the more human in its love of this world, rather than a yearning for a perfect world 'beyond the veil.' There is something ecstatic about seeing clearly the beauty and amazing variety in this world around us - that is all about some kind of 'pure' experience, I support akin to the innocence Thomas Traherne was seeking to express through his writing.
Why have you coupled Britten with Finzi?
The contrasts and similiarities between Britten are fascinating On one level they are so opposite, yet they actually shared more than they both realised. I have a deep connection with the Britten Pears School as it was a crucial learning space for me in my early year. Also, I began in my early days of singing as a founder member of the Finzi Singers under Paul Spicer. I recorded on a Chandos disc the solos in the Finzi Lo the Full Final Sacrifice on the disc that we made at St Matthews Northampton all the pieces that were commissioned in that chuch that also commissioned Britten.
Finally, you have an interesting range of hobbies, could you share this with us?
I trained as a botanist in Oxford and London. I am a keen naturalist and my time spent in Aldeburgh is as much about music as it is getting out and about with my binoculars or looking at the plants beneath my feet. I am also interested in heritage apple trees. Finzi was passionate about heritage apple trees at his house in Ashmansworth.
Susan, many thanks for your time.
Susan's album CHAN 10590 is Chandos April Disc of the Month.