This is an important disc.
Alan Rawsthorne's music is often heavy, intense, claustrophobic, oppressive
and 'brown' in colour, as well as being cheerless and lacking in brightness.
The Sonatina for Piano is a case in point as are pages of The Creel
for piano duet both included on this disc.
But the songs show us a less familiar Rawsthorne. While none of them are
outstanding they do reveal the composer's ease at writing for the voice.
Some of the songs have an unexpected sparkle such as the Tzu-Yeh songs
wonderfully brought to life by Sandra Dugdale. These songs date from 1929
and are remarkably fresh for a composer whose mature works are so passive.
The sleeve notes refer to Infant Joy 'revealing the composer's
unmistakeable voice' but unmistakeable does neither mean outstanding nor
innovative. The Three French Nursery Songs had Sophie Wyss as their
first performer in 1938, which is some commendation as, in fact, was the
case of Nous etions trois filles.
Alan Rawsthorne was notorious for hijacking other men's wives and friends.
It was part of his longing to be both loved and admired and his jealousy
at friendships that others had. His lack of self-esteem found dubious comfort
in excessive alcohol; and this may well explain the muddled and morose content
in his music. He courted the favour of two poets, Louis McNeice and W.R.
Rodgers who were both great friends of Humphrey Searle.
Rawsthorne's setting of McNeice's Precursors and Rodgers' Carol
seem to miss the point and the latter, in the key of B flat minor, does not
Rawsthorne also hijacked other composers' music. The Chaconne in his
Piano Concerto No 1 is a piece called Ostinato which Denis
ApIvor wrote some six years earlier and did not publish.
The Saraband for Dead Lovers is a setting of words by Walter Meade
using the melody from the 1948 film of the same name which film starred Stewart
Granger, Flora Robson and the delicious Joan Greenwood whose plummy voice
still haunts me.
In spite of my reservations about the quality of the music this disc is
significant and includes all of Alan Rawsthorne's solo songs.
The performances and recording are good. I felt that Martin Hindmarsh's voice
sounded a little tired occasionally but this is probably because of 'many
takes' since he is a perfectionist. Alan Cuckston's playing is as reliable