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BRITISH SONG    rec.1995



The Heart's Assurance (1951) Michael Tippett (b.1905) 17'25"
I Song
II The Heart's assurance
III Compassion
IV The dancer
V Remember your lovers
(Alan Lewis)
(Sidney Keyes)
(Alan Lewis)
(Alan Lewis)
(Sidney Keyes)
Allegretto con mota scorrevole 2'49"
Allegro giocoso 2'0l"
Lento 4'l7"
Presto 2'17"
Andante ma con moto 5'47"
A Woman Young and Old (1962) Francis Routh (b.1927) 13'10"
I Father and child
II Before the world was made
III For Anne Gregory
IV The Fool by the roadside
V Her triumph
VI Meeting
VII From the Antigone
(W.B. Yeats) Slowly, freely 1'02"
Agitato, scherzando   1'06" 
Allegretto vivace  1'32"

Slow 1'57"
Animato 1'19"
Poco maestoso 2'48"

Moderate, with intensity  3'05"
The Golden Kingdom (1983) David Matthews (b.1943)
I A bridal song
II Him I praise
III Spell of creation
IV Spell of sleep
V Lament of Ahania
VI Blue butterflies' eyed wings
VII Bright cloud
VIII Oval the golden moon
IX A fragment: to Music
(Percy Bysshe Shelley)
(Kathleen Raine)
(Kathleen Raine)
(Kathleen Raine)
(William Blake)
(Kathleen Raine)
(Kathleen Raine)
(Kathleen Raine)
(Percy Bysshe Shelley)
Quietly but urgently 1'39"
Broad and stately  2'30"
Deliberate, not hurried 3'24"
Quietly moving  4'03"
Grave  3'38"
Quietly flowing  0'34"
Adagio  1'41"
Sottenuto  1'19"
Allegro moderato  2'46"
Love's Legacy (1994) John Rushby-Smith (b.1936) 18'16"
I Justina and the nightingale
Lines (1815)
III Remembrance
IV Lament
(Percy Bysshe Shelley)
(Percy Bysshe Shelley)
(Percy Bysshe Shelley)
(Mary Shelley)
Andante con moto 6'3 1"
Adagio sostenuto 4'58"
Presteo comoda 2'02"
Slow and meditative 4'29"

Notes ©1995,1998 Redcliffe Recordings


The Heart's Assurance

The songs all treat the same theme, that of love remembered. For Tippett the motivation was strongly personal; his songs are a memorial to Francesca Allinson, whose suicide in 1945 affected him so deeply that it was five years before he could translate his grief into music. His songs are sub-titled Love under the shadow of Death and are settings of the poems of two young poets killed in the Secesnd World War, Alun Lawis and Sidney Keyes.
The idiom of the songs has similar characteristics tsr The Midsummer Marriage, written at the same time: diatonic melodic material is set in varied, expanding tonal surroundings. In the first song an ecstatic freedom in the voice part, whose phrase-shapes are dictated by the syllabic stress of the words, is set against an accompaniment of exuberant, independent tone-painting.

 I   Song Alun Lewis
Oh journeyman,
Before this endless belt began
It's cruel revolutions, you and she.
Naked in Eden she shook the apple tree.

Oh soldier lad,
Before the soul of things turned bad,
She offered you so modestly
A shining apple from the tree.

Oh lonely wife,
Before your lover left this life
He took you in his gentle arms.
How trivial then were life's alarms.
And though Death taps down every street
Familiar as the postman on his beat,

Remember this,
That Life has trembled in a kiss
From Genesis to Genesis,
And what's transfigured will live on
Long after Death has come and gone.

The second song, from which the cycle takes its name, is full of bitterness and passion;

0 never trust the heart's assurance -
Trust only the heart's fear:

In Compassion the darkness of the night gives rise to quick movement in the piano's bass register; while The Dancer, on the other hand, maintains in the accompaniment the brilliant movement of turn and pirouette. In the final song the mood is projected with poignant imagery, as Tippett imagines "a young woman singing out over the Elysian Fields to the young men beyond." The recurring summons "Young Men" sounds like a bugle call: the Last Post.
II   The Heart's assurance   Sidney Keyes

O never trust the heart's assurance -
Trust only the heart's fear:
And what I'm saying is, Go back, my lovely -
Though you will never hear.

O never trust your pride of movement -
Trust only pride's distress:
The only holy limbs are the broken fingers
Still raised to praise and bless. -.

For the careless heart is bound with chains
And terribly cast down:
The beast of pride is hunted out
And baited through the town.

III   Compassion    Alun Lewis

She in the hurling night
With lucid simple hands,
Stroked away his fright
Loosed his blood-stained bands.

And seriously aware
Of the terror she caressed
Drew his matted hair
Gladly to her breast.

And he who babbled Death
Shivered and grew still
In the meadows of her breath
Restoring his dark will.

Nor did she ever stir
In the storm's calm centre
To feel the tail, hooves, fur
Of the god-faced centaur.


IV The dancer      Alun Lewis

'He's in his grave and on his head
I dance' the lovely dancer said,
'My feet like fireflies illume
The choking blackness of his tomb.

'Had he not died we would have wed,
And still I'd dance,' the dancer said,
'To keep the creeping sterile doom
Out of the darkness of my womb.

'Our love was always ringed with dread
Of death,' the lovely dancer said,
'And so I danced for his delight,
And scorched the blackened core of night
With passion bright,' the dancer said,
'And now I dance to earn my bread.'

V Remember your lovers      Sidney Keyes

Young men walking the open streets
Of death's republic, remember your lovers.

When you foresaw with vision prescient
The planet pain rising across your sky
We fused your sight in our soft burning beauty.
We laid you down in meadows drunk with cowslips
And led you in the ways of our bright city.
Young men who wander death's vague meadows,
Remember your lovers who gave you more than flowers.

When you woke grave-chilled at midnight
To pace the pavement of your bitter dream
We brought you back to bed and brought you home
From the dark antechamber of desire
Into our lust as warm* as candle-flame.
Young men who lie in the carven beds of death,
Remember your lovers who gave you more than dreams.

From the sun sheltering your careless head
Or from the painted devil your quick eye,
We led you out of terror tenderly
And fooled you into peace with our soft words
And gave you all we had and let you die.
Young men drunk with death's unquenchable wisdom,
Remember your lovers who gave you more than love.

* 'bright' in Tippett's setting. 2nd verse omitted.

Poems reprinted with the permission of Allen and Unwin, and Routledge Ltd.


A Woman Young and Old

In A Woman Young and Old Yeats treats love objectively. Passion and bitterness give way to reflection and wit. Is not how one person appears to another the first consideration? Is not everyone an actor? Who does not wear a mask? When in old age the spool of life is complete, a faithful love may be found; meanwhile people enact love like a part in a play. Looking back on his own hopeless obsession with the unobtainable Maud Gonne 40 years earlier, the poet sings of appearance and reality, youth and age, truth and myth. Only the dust of death is loveless.
The poems are strophic. Routh's musical structure too is taut, and the idiom, tonal rather than diatonic, is bound together by a four-note motif common to all the songs. It is first heard at the wotds "that his hair is beautiful" in the introductory recitative. Thereafter the songs fall into pairs. Before the World was made and For Anne Gregory are vivace in style, appropriate to youth; The Fool by the Roadside is slow, with sustained harmonies, the parts bound indissolubly to each other in strict canon and the rhythm suggesting the spinning of thread on a spool; this is paired with the physical ecstasy of Her Triumph. An unyielding, march-like pulse governs Meeting, witha tonal ambivalence in the ostinato chords. The four-note motif becomes more insistent until in the final song it forms the declamatory opening "Overcome, O bitter sweetness", while the ambivalent tonality colours the piano part like a Blues.
The songs come early in Routh's output, and are one of several sets composed in the l960s. They were first performed in October 1962 by Noelle Barker and Colin Tilney at a concert in Leighton House, Kensington.

I Father and child

She hears me strike the board and say
That she is under ban
Of all good men and women,
Being mentioned with a man
That has the worst of all bad names;
and thereupon replies,
That his hair is beautiful,
Cold as the March wind his eyes.

II Before the world was made

If I make the lashes dark
And the eyes more bright
And the lips more scarlet,
Or ask if all be right
From mirror after mirror,
No vanity's displayed.
I'm looking for the face I had
Before the world was made.

What if I look upon a man
As though on my beloved,
And my blood be cold the while
And my heart unmoved?
Why should he think me cruel
Or that he is betrayed?
I'd have him love the thing that was
Before the world was made.

III For Anne Gregory

'Never shall a young man
Thrown into despair
By those great honey-coloured
Ramparts at your ear,
Love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair'

'But I can get a hair-dye
And set such colour there,
Brown, or black, or carrot,
That young men in despair
May love me for myself alone
And not my yellow hair.'

'I heard an old religious man
But yesternight declare
That he had found a text to prove
That only God, my dear,
Could love you for yourself alone
And not your yellow hair.'

IV The Fool by the roadside
When all works that have
From cradle run to grave
From grave to cradle run instead;
When thoughts that a fool
Has wound upon a spool
Are but loose thread, are but loose thread;

When cradle and spool are past
And I mere shade at last
Coagulate of stuff
Transparent like the wind,
I think that I may find
A faithful love, a faithful love.

V Her triumph

I did the dragon's will until you came
Because I had fancied love a casual
Improvisation, or a settled game
That followed if I let the kerchief fall.
Those deeds were best that gave the minute wings
And heavenly music if they gave it wit;
And then you stood among the dragon-rings.

I mocked, being crazy, but you mastered it
And broke the chain and set my ankles free,
Saint George or else a pagan Perseus;
And now we stare astonished at the sea,
and a miraculous strange bird shrieks at us

VI Meeting

Hidden by old age awhile
In masker's cloak and hood,
Each hating what the other loved,
Face to face we stood:
'That I have met with such', said he,
'Bodes me little good.'

'let others boast their fill,' said I,
'But never dare to boast
That such as I had such a man
For lover in the past;
Say that of living men I hate
Such a man the most.'

'A loony'd boast of such a love,'
He in his rage declared:
But such as he for such as me -
Could we both discard
This beggarly habiliment -
Had found a sweeter word.

VII From the Antigone

Overcome - O bitter sweetness,
Inhabitant of the soft cheek of a girl -
The rich man and his affairs,
The fat flocks and the fields' fatness,
Mariners, rough harvesters;
Overcome Gods upon Parnassus;

Overcome the Empyrean; hurl
Heaven and Earth out of their places,
That in the same calamity
Brother and brother, friend and friend,
Family and family,
City and city may contend,
By that great glory driven wild.

Pray I will and sing I must,
And yet I weep - Oedipus' child
Descends into the loveless dust.

Poems by WB.Yeats

Text reprinted ftom "The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats", with the permission of Macmillan (Publishers) Ltd.

The Golden Kingdom

Four of the songs that make up The Golden Kingdom, including the two of Shelley,  were occasional pieces; some years later further poems of Raine and Blake were added to complete the cycle. The nine songs are divided by Blake's Lament of Ahania into two groups of four, framed at the beginning and end by lyrical poems of Shelley. The first group are love poems by Kathleen Raine, strophic, of regular stracture and quite substantial.  The second group are miniatures, light and evanescent, by the same poet, in which she introduces a note of nature-mysticism.
The melodic line of the first song recalls the early Schoenberg, particularly Das Butch der hängenden Gärten, which also consisted of concentrated miniatures. Matthews treats the E tonality with ambiguous inflection. Elsewhere the idiom is more diatonic; the two Spell songs are harmonised in fourths. If any of the poems may be said to be more representative of Raine's imagery than the others they are the two poems Spell of Creation and Spell of Sleep. The music too is unified and homogeneous in these songs more than in the others. The cycle was first sung in its entirety by Margaret Field, with pianist Andrew Ball, in 1988.

I    A bridal song    Percy Bysshe Shelley

The golden gates of sleep unbar
    Where Strength and Beauty, met together,
Kindle their image like a star
     In a sea of glassy weather!
Night, with all thy stars look down, -
     Darkness, weep thy holiest dew, -
Never smiled the inconstant moon
     On a pair so true.
Let eyes not see their own delight; -
Haste, swift Hour, and thy flight Oft renew.

Fairies, sprites, and angels, keep her!
     Holy stars, permit no wrong!
And return to wake the sleeper,
     Dawn, - ere it be long
0 joy ! 0 fear l what will be done
In the absence of the sun
     Come along!

II   Him I praise    Kathleen Raine

Him I praise with my mute mouth of night
Uttering silences until the stars
Hang at the still nodes of my troubled waves.
Into my dark I have drawn down his light.

I weave upon the empty floor of space
The bridal dance, I dance the mysteries
That set the house of Pentheus ablaze.
His radiance shines into my darkest place.

He lays in my deep grave his deathless fires,
In me his flame springs fountain tree and heart,
Soars up from nature's bed in a bird's flight.
Into my dark I have drawn down his light.

My leaves draw down the sun with their green hands
And bind his rays into the world's wild rose.
I hold my mirroring seas before his face.
His radiance shines into my darkest place.

III   Spell of creation     Kathleen Raine

Within the flower there lies a seed
In the seed there springs a tree
In the tree there spreads a wood
In the wood there burns a fire
And in the fire there melts a stone
Within the stone a ring of iron

Within the ring there lies an O
In the 0 there looks an eye
In the eye there swims a sea
And in the sea reflected sky
And in the sky there shines a sun
In the sun a bird of gold.

In the bird there beats a heart
And from the heart there flows a song
And in the song there sings a word
In the word there speaks a world
A word of joy, a world of grief
From joy and grief there springs my love

O love, my love, there springs a world
And on the world there shines a sun
And in the sun there burns a fire
In the fire consumes my heart
And in my heart there beats a bird
And in the bird there wakes an eyev
Within the eye, earth, sea and sky
Earth, sky and sea within an O
Lie like the seed within the flower

IV Spell of sleep Kathleen Raine

Let him be safe in sleep
As leaves folded together
As young birds under wings
As the unopened flower

Let him be hidden in sleep
As islands under rain,
As mountains within their clouds,
As hills in the mantle of dusk.

Let him be free in sleep
As the flowing tides of the sea,
As the travelling wind on the moor,
As the journeying stars in space.

Let him be upheld in sleep
As a cloud at rest on the air,
As sea-wrack under the waves
When the flowing tide covers all
And the shells' delicate lives
Open on the sea-floor

Let him be healed in sleep
In the quiet waters of night
In the mirroring pool of dreams
Where memory returns in peace,
Where the troubled spirit grows wise
And the heart is comforted.

V   Lament of Ahania     William Blake

'Where is my golden palace?
Where my ivory bed?
Where the joy of my moming hour?
Where the sons of eternity singing

To awake bright Urizen, my king
To arise to the mountain sport,
To the bliss of eternal valleys;

To awake my king in the morn,
To embrace Ahania's joy
On the breadth of his open bosom?
From my soft cloud of dew to fall
In showers of life on his harvests,

When he gave my happy soul
To the sons of eternal joy,
When he took the daughters of life
Into my chambers of love'

VI  Blue butterflies' eyed wings     Kathleen Raine

Blue butterflies' eyed wings,
Eyed buzzard high in blue sky,
Mountain isles blue veiled
In fleeting shade of fleeting cloud,
Of these I am the I.

VII   Bright cloud      Kathleen Raine

Bright cloud, bringer of rain to far fields,
To me, who will not drink that waterfall nor feel
Wet mist on my face, white gold and rose
Vision of light, meaning and beauty immeasurable.
That meaning is not rain, nor that beauty mist.

VIII  Oval the golden moon     Kathleen Raine

Oval the golden moon
Hangs in the evening sky
Filling the bay with light, So near,
If I could clear my sight,
Cast body away, I would be here.

IX  A fragment: to Music     Percy Bysshe Shelley

Silver key of the fountain of tears,
Where the spirit drinks till the brain is wild;
Softest grave of a thousand fears,
Where their mother Care, like a drowsy child,
Is laid asleep in flowers.

Poems of Kathleen Raine reprinted with the permission of Hamish Hamilton


Love's Legacy

Dedicated to Margaret Field Love's Legacy is concerned with the more familiar trials and tribulations of life and love and sets poems by Shelley and his wife Mary. Justina and the Nightingale was composed for, and first performed by Margaret Field and Andrew Ball at, the 1992 Bournemouth International Festival, which had the dual themes of Shelley and Spain. The text is a song from Shelley's translation of Calderon's Magica Prodigioso. Justina, the personification of innocence, finds herself tempted by the young Cyprian, sent by the Devil, Daenson, to seduce her. She asks the Nightingale to tell her the meaning of the strange feelings stirring within her, symbolised by the entwining vine and the sunflower's rapt devotion to the sun. Only at the end is she given the answer. "Love! Love! Love!" The song is set in the style of an operatic scena and begins with a recitative.
The poem Lines (1815) is believed to have been written after the suicide of Shelley's first wife, Harriet. The setting is a threnody in the form of a chaconne, with the piano part reiterating the same material throughout. Remembrance reflects on the fleeting, transitory nature of life and love. The voice part is superimposed upon a fluid, presto accompaniment.
Lament was written by Shelley's widow, Mary Woolstencraft Shelley, after his tragic death in a sailing accident off the Italian coast. It is a song of despair mixed with dashed hopes. The stanzas are punctuated by a death-knell refrain, first heard with the words "Ah woe! Ah woe!"
If the harmony is tonally explicit, the melodic line is varied and proceeds in unexpected directions by means of frequent enharmonic change. The syllabic and dramatic stress of words is matched by the vocal pitch and note-values. Taken together the four songs form a suite: the first song is the most substantial, the second forms the slow movement in the form of a chaconne, the third forms the scherzo, and the fourth is the concluding dirge, with echoes of material from the first song.

I  Justina and the nightingale   Percy Bysshe Shelley

Thou melancholy thought which art
So flattering and so sweet, to thee
When did I give the liberty
Thus to afflict my heart?
What subtle pain is kindled now
Which from my heart doth overflow
Into my senses?

Tis that enamoured Nightingale
Who gives me the reply;
He ever tells the same soft tale
Of passion and of constancy
To his mate, who rapt and fond,
Listening sits a bough beyond.
Be silent, Nightingale - no more

Make me think, in hearing thee
Thus tenderly thy love deplore,
If a bird can feel his so,
What a man would feel for me.

And, voluptuous Vine, 0 thou
Who seekest most when least pursuing,
To the trunk thou interlacest
Art the verdure which embracest,
And the weight which is its ruin, -
No more, with green embraces, Vine,
Make me think on what thou lovest, -
For whilst thus thy boughs entwine,
I fear lest thou shouldst teach me, sophist,
How arms might be entangled too.

Light-enchanted Sunflower, thou
Who gazest ever true and tender
On the sun's revolving splendour!
Follow not his faithless glance
With thy faded countenance,
Nor teach my beating heart to fear,
If leaves can mourn withtout a tear,
How eyes must weep!

                           O Nightingale,
Cease from thy enamoured tale, -
Leafy Vine, unwreathe thy bower,
Restless Sunflower cease to move, -
Or tell me all, what poisonous Power
Ye use against me -
Love! Love! Love!

II   Lines     Percy Bysshe Shelley

The cold earth slept below,
Above the cold sky shone;
And all around, with a chilling sound,
From caves of ice and fields of snow,
The breath of night like death doth flow
Beneath the sinking moon.

The wintry hedge was black,
The green grass was not seen,
The birds did rest on the bare thorn's breast,
Whose roots, beside the pathway track,
Had bound their folds with many a crack
Which the frost had made between.

Thine eyes glowed in the glare
Of the moon's dying light;
As a fen-fire's beam on a sluggish stream
Gleams dimly, so the moon shone there,
And it yellowed the strings of thy raven hair,
That shook in the wind of night.

The moon made thy lips pale, beloved -
The wind made thy bosom chill -
The night did shed on thy dear head
Its frozen dew, and thou didst lie
Where the bitter breath of the naked sky
Might visit thee at will.

III Remembrance Percy Byashe Shelley

Swifter far than summer's flight -
Swifter far than youth's delight -
Swifter far than happy night,
    Art thou come and gone -
As the earth when leaves are dead,
As the night when sleep is sped,
As the heart when joy is fled,
    I am left lone, alone.

The swallow summer comes again -
The owlet night resumes her reign -
But the wild-swan youth is fain
    To fly with thee, false as thou. -
My heart each day desires the morrow:
Sleep itself is turned to sorrow;
Vainly would my winter borrow
    Sunny leaves from any bough.

Lilies for a bridal bed -
Roses for a matron's head -
Violets for a maiden dead -
    Pansies let my flowers be:
On the living grave I bear
Scatter them without a tear -
Let no friend, however dear,
    Waste one hope, one fear for me.

IV   Lament      Mary Shelley

This morn thy gallant bark
Sailed on a sunny sea.
Tis noon,and tempests dark
Have wrecked it on the lee.
Ah woe! Ah woe!
By Spirits of the deep
Thou'rt cradled on the billow
To thy eternal sleep.

Thou sleep'st upon the shore
Beside the knelling surge,
And Sea-nymphs evermore
Shall sadly chant thy dirge.
They come, they come
The Spirits of the deep,
While near thy seaweed pillow
My lonely watch I keep.

From far across the sea
I hear a loud lament,
By Echos's voice for thee
From Ocean's caverns sent.
O list! O list!
The Spirits of the deep!
They raise a wail of sorrow,
While I for ever weep.

Notes ©1995,1998 Redcliffe Recordings

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