There is hardly any duplication between this collection
and the RVW Naxos disc recently (2003)
licensed from Collins. The two dovetail cleanly. Both are reissues.
The Decca is licensed from a 1992 Koch anthology. The Naxos derives
from a momentarily available Collins CD at full price. The Decca is
pitched at midprice; the Naxos at bargain basement.
I know Ruth Golden's name from her Centaur collection
of British songs. I had not heard of Thomas Woodman before this disc.
In any event he appears in only one song. Golden's voice is strong but
can be prone to squalling. This comes across immediately in the three
impassioned songs from the Rossetti cycle. She is much better in the
Four Last Songs (1954-58) which I have always thought superior
to the earlier songs anyway. Menelaus with its Antartica-tinkling
piano accompaniment is especially successful. Linden Lea responds
better to a man's voice. Golden certainly handles the song intelligently
and makes perceptive use of her voice. She hits her best material with
Dreamland with its bardic trills on the piano. Until reading
the notes I had not realised that the Georgian poet Fredegond Shove
was a niece of the composer's first wife. The New Ghost has words
that are closely in step with the metaphysical spirituality of the George
Herbert settings of Five Mystical Songs. Ruth Golden handles
this song extremely well. Adieu and Think of me are simpler
songs linked to Schubertian exemplars. The Housman song cycle was written
in 1927 then revised in 1954. It must surely have had its origins in
the snowy perfection of Holst's Four Medieval Poems (words adapted
by Helen Waddell). The Holst poems are chaste and cool. There is a degree
more warmth in the Vaughan Williams cycle. This is as much to do with
Housman's human dramas as anything else. The country fiddler evocation
comes to the fore in Goodbye and Fancy's Knell. This is
a very strongly characterised cycle and Golden and Nancy Bean (a relation
of Hugh Bean, I wonder) make a very strong contribution.
This is all well done with good notes by Dr Byron Adams
and full texts printed in the booklet.