The Welcome Arrival of Rain

Wit, learning, curiosity, irony, ingenuity, amusement -- it?s not often that one gets to hear these qualities in performances of contemporary chamber or orchestral music, but all emanate palpably, dressed in a striking aural loveliness, when the scores of Judith Weir are played. Born in 1954, the Scottish Weir has composed a piano concerto, three operas (A Night at the Chinese Opera, The Vanishing Bridegroom, and Blond Eckbert), and dozens of memorable chamber and vocal pieces informed by her interest in storytelling, folklore, and theater. As critic and composer Robert Hugill has aptly written, Weir "writes beautifully constructed, essentially tonal music, but there is something deeply complex and ungraspable about her pieces. On the surface they are elegant, melodic and approachable; but on first acquaintance her music has elusive depths which can only be teased out." Such is certainly the case with the pieces collected on this disc. The title work, performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, lets us listen as brilliantly scored branches sprout from a few simple melodic seeds; it?s a layered and beautiful evocation of nature, an evocation that continues in the compositions for orchestra and voices that follow (Natural History, composed for soprano Dawn Upsahw and sung by Ailish Tynan here, Moon and Star, a setting of a poem by Emily Dickinson, and Forest, for orchestra). Delighting both ear and spirit, The Welcome Arrival of Rain is a welcome arrival indeed.

July 23: Jessica Mitford died on this day in 1996.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).