“My heart is a black lump of coal,” writes Syrian poet Ali Safar. “My heart is a full stop on a page.” This is an excerpt, translated by Anne-Marie McManus, from Safar’s A Black Cloud in a Leaden White Sky, or Death by Stabs of Sorrow, which describes personal responses to the Syrian war and provides the text of Jonathan Dove’s In Damascus. The beauty of the piece, for tenor and string quartet, is its restraint. It doesn’t sensationalise, get maudlin, moralise or politicise. The words are direct and the music respects that. The performance does, too: clear, focused playing from the Sacconi Quartet and lucid, unswerving narrative from tenor Mark Padmore. The rest of the disc is lighter but always with that trademark Dove economy: the Sacconis sound relaxed and bubbly in the 2001 quartet Out of Time and pianist Charles Owen joins for the Piano Quintet, intense and light-filled.
Jonathan Dove: In Damascus, etc CD review – beauty in its restraint
Kate Molleson is a Glasgow-based music critic. She studied performance in Montreal and musicology in London, where she specialised in 1930s experimental radio