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Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
From the House of Life (Dante Gabriel Rossetti)
Four Last Songs (Ursula Vaughan Williams)
Four Poems by Fredegond Shove

Along the Field (A.E. Housman)
Linden Lea (William Barnes)
The Sky Above the Roof (Paul Verlaine)
Dreamland (Christina Rossetti)
Claribel (Alfred, Lord Tennyson)
If I were a Queen (Christina Rossetti)
Adieu (German folksong)
Think of Me (German folksong)
Ruth Golden (sop)
Levering Rothfuss (piano)
Thomas Woodman (bar)
Nancy Bean (violin)
rec. Recital Hall, SUNY Purchase, Purchase, New York, USA. Apr 1992. DDD


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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.

Rob Barnett

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