Alluring and unsettling in equal measure, Knussen’s Rosary Songs form a shadowy epilogue to the collection of pieces associated with his Second Symphony (1971). Like the Symphony, these haunted songs for soprano, clarinet, viola and piano set poems by the Austrian Expressionist Georg Trakl – indeed, the first song here, ‘An die Schwester’ (‘To my sister’), is actually a transcription of some of the music we hear in the Symphony’s last movement. This frost-traced 14-minute work is obsessively 12-note, though the luminous harmonies that result are unmistakably Knussen’s – as is the masterful handling of the voice. This work also contains some surprising features, including quartertone inflections a substantial amount of playing inside the piano.
‘Fantastical lunar beauty’
The Times (Hilary Finch), 4 November 2002