The world premiere of Tsunami by Dominic Muldowney (the second recipient of the Elgar Bursary for mature composers) registered barely a ripple. Here was a highly experienced theatre composer working with a significant poet, James Fenton, and a charismatic actor-singer, Philip Quast. But Tsunami, played by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Sir Colin Davis, patronised the popular styles to which it alluded.
Essentially, Fenton's five poems chronicle one man's attempts to put his life back together after the breakdown of his marriage. Watching footage of the 2004 tsunami eventually puts his own bitter experience into perspective. But, with the exception of the final song, Muldowney's settings seem strangely disconnected from the text. The beauty and pithiness of Fenton's texts almost entirely passed us by.
Only in the cello-led final setting, "How can the heart live?", was Quast allowed room to find even a modicum of genuine emotion in the vocal line. What a waste. Rodgers and Hart would have cracked it.Reuse content