Donald Swann (1923-94) is particularly remembered for his shows with Michael
Flanders (At the Drop of a Hat, etc.) but his genius was many sided and this
CD will extend the knowledge of his music for many people.
Swann got to know the Greek islands at the end of the Second War, especially
Casos in the Dodecanese. This was reflected in his music from time to time
and this well recorded CD seeks to draw together Swann's Greek strands. Some
of the tracks are arrangements of traditional songs, mostly sing in Greek,
others are varied original settings by Swann of Greek poems, mostly sung
in English, of which I particularly enjoyed the delicious Miranda,
which often figured in At the Drop of a Hat, the charming dialogue
The Favours and the stark The Isles of Greece. The three singers,
admirable in their clarity of diction and delivery, are all well suited to
this repertoire and they are accompanied by a chamber orchestra, a solo soprano
saxophone contributing some evocative moments.
The arrangements, including the purely instrumental Casiot Journey
are by Mr. Jansson, who also sets the folk song Militsa
which Swann did not set but much enjoyed. Swann returned to Casos
in 1986, wondering if the spell it cast would have dissipated (it hadn't);
the eight Casos Sonnets represent his thoughts in words and music
of that journey. All are here, sung by Swann himself to his piano accompaniment,
as a bonus II-VII, which also figure sung by the three "modern" singers.
Their idiom is often recitative-like but is nevertheless deeply felt. Divine
Art's relatively small catalogue has afforded several items of unusually
interest, many of them British. This is certainly one of them and I am happy
to give it a warm recommendation.
see also earlier review by Rob Barnett