Through a Glass is the world premiere recording of a series of songs by Martin Bussey, a choral scholar at King’s College, Cambridge. The opening work Blue Remembered Hills introduces baritone Marcus Farnsworth and pianist James Baillieu with immediacy, delving into an obscurity marked by dissonances and startling dynamics.
Through a Glass, Darkly was crafted with text from different authors. The composer’s notes tell us the work refers to the relationship between reality and dreams and is “the most ambitious musically and thematically”. The fourth song The Secret Sits breaks the flow with a trumpet that simply sticks out. The closing song in the cycle Lay Your Sleeping Head crafts brief whirlwinds of angst before resolving into the most conventional sounding progression of chords we’ve heard yet – a happy ending to an eccentric piece.
Farnsworth is superb – not only for the clarity in his timbre but for allowing us to identify every word. Though he leans into every note almost theatrically, Through a Glass, Darkly shows unexpected changes in character. By contrast, The Windhover is part-challenge, part-conversation between Farnsworth and solo violin, while Garden Songs features texts written across the centuries about flowers and trees. The final song Mr. Hancock’s Letter closes the album as fiercely as it opened – but finally throws us the relief of a major chord. Thank goodness!