I was curious to hear the music of Roxanna Panufnik - the daughter of Polish-British composerAndrzej Panufnik, of whom I have heard and reviewed quite a lot of music. Not easy to be "the son of" - Siegfried Wagner probably would not disagree - so what about "the daughter of"?
The music is lush, colorful and atmospheric, descriptive and graphic (which makes it fun; the frogs' croaking at the beginning of "The Frog and the Nightingale" is irresistible), balletic even, and the orchestration is often beautifully imaginative (try the beginning of the third song, "The Hare and the Tortoise", with its piano and - is it marimba?). Panufnik responds imaginatively to the text, and these are quasi opera scenes, except that they have a narrator. The songs stand in the direct wake of Ravel's L'Enfant et Les Sortilèges, Roussel's The Spider Feast, Janacek's Little Cunning Vixen (the compositional style is different of course, but the orchestral lushness is a shared feature), Britten's Midsummernight's Dream (especially in "The Frog and the Nightingale" and in some string glissandos in "The Hare and the Tortoise") and Knussen's Where the Wild Things Are. Which also means that Panufnik's language is very entertaining, but not particularly advanced (it hardly goes beyond Britten and Bernstein), highly efficient, but not entirely original.
The three poems of Vikram Seth, from his book Beastly Tales from Here and There, are gems of wits and cleverness. As a music lover and a person familiar with singers, I especially enjoyed "The Frog and the Nightingale". Every soprano and every singing teacher in the world must read it. I'm sorry to be crass as the frog and to have to say that Patricia Rozario lack's the last breath of angelic purity to be entirely convincing as the nightingale - that was a role for Edita Gruberova or Nathalie Dessay. Mezzo Yvonne Howard sounds a bit congested too. But these modest quibbles are only because the songs are so much fun that one dreams of perfection.