Andrew Clements
The Guardian
December 2006

From the brilliant, typically quirky King Harald's Saga of 1979, in which the soprano has to assume a variety of roles including singing a duet with herself and standing in for a whole chorus, to the four songs that make up the 2003 cycle The Voice of Desire, in which poems by Keats, Hardy and Bridges are set alongside a Yoruba huntsmen's song, Judith Weir's music for voice and piano makes a diverting sequence.

Nothing is ever quite what it seems in these apparently guileless settings, and Weir's characteristically skewed and spare narratives, to which the accompaniments often add a gently subversive edge, tweak the ambiguities further.

Weir's fascination with folk song, whether from her native Scotland or from much further afield, surfaces regularly, as does her love of Oriental texts. The exquisite Ox Mountain Was Covered by Trees, written in 1991 to mark the demise of Kent Opera, is a Confucian meditation from the 5th century BC on the folly of deforestation; all Weir's art as a song writer is encapsulated in its five-minute span. Along with pianist Iain Burnside, the performances by mezzo Susan Bickley, soprano Ailish Tynan and tenor Andrew Kennedy match the jewel-like clarity of the songs.