What a pleasure it is, to be able to hear Michael Nyman's superlative score divorced from the showy, vacuous and inept Peter Greenaway film for which it was written. On its own terms, it makes for one of the greatest musical interpretations of a Shakespeare play produced in the 20th century. Its mixture of genres and references, from Elizabethan songs through Purcell to Michael Tippett and modern rock, are seamlessly melded into a beautiful score which is timeless, but very much of our time too. Its sheer range of moods, from the pastoral Miranda music to the vicious brutalities of Caliban's Pit, is astonishing.
The extraordinary performance of Sarah Leonard as a strange, vocal high-wire Arial is matched by the three Goddesses in the through-written final Masque: they come from a mixture of operatic, cabaret and rock backgrounds, all styles faultlessly combined by Nyman without any suspicion of "crossover". The Michael Nyman Band on this album includes such fabulous instrumentalists as Alexander Balanescu, and the in-your-face, close-up recording adds to the feeling of total immersion. This is a must for all Nyman fans, and one of his greatest achievements.
If you like this, it is worth investigating his highly compressed, slightly later 'Tempest' opera Noises, Sounds & Sweet Airs which grew out of his 'Prospero's Books' work without quoting from it, and is also readily available on Amazon.
While i like quite a few of Nyman's later compositions such as Gattaca and The Claim etc I am not really into his earlier works.like the Greenaway ones. I suppose I purchased this album out of curiosity as much as anything but really it fits into the latter category.