Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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Victorian and Edwardian ballads

Give me a ticket to Heaven (Harrison/Elton)
Parted (Tosti/Weatherly)
Invictus (Huhn/Henley)
Friend o’mine (Sanderson/Weatherly)
Now sleeps the crimson petal (Quilter/Tennyson)
The floral dance (Moss)
I’ll walk beside you (Murray/Lockton)
The carol singers (Sterndale-Bennett/Hayes)
Trees (Rasbach/Kilmer)
Anchored (Watson/Cowan)
Mr Shadowman (anon arr Kaye)
Mother o’mine (Tours/Kipling)
The Holy City (Adams/Weatherly)
A perfect day (Jacobs-Bond)
Rose of Tralee (Glover/Spencer)
The volunteer organist (Lamb)
Ave Maria (Mascagni/Weatherly)
The blind ploughman (Clarke/Radcliffe-Hall)
Bless this house (Brahe/Taylor)
God will watch over you (Davis)

My dearest heart (Sullivan)
A brown bird singing (Haydn Wood/Barrie)
What’s in the air today (Eden)
A mood (Travers/Macdermott)
Down the vale (Moir/Hadath)
If I might come to you (Squire/Weatherly)
Two little words (Brahe/Taylor)
Three green bonnets (d’Hardelot/Harris)
It’s all right in the summertime (Everard/Murray)
Love’s old sweet song (Molloy/Bingham)
Morning (Speaks/Stanton)
I’ll walk beside you (Murray/Lockton)
The valley of laughter (Sanderson/Bowles)
Love, here is my heart (Silesu/Ross)
Whatever is – is best (Lehr/Wilcox)
Daddy (Behrend/Lemon)
Bird of love divine (Haydn Wood/Birch)
Benjamin Luxon (baritone) and David Willison (piano) CD1 recorded London 1975
Felicity Palmer (soprano) and John Constable (piano) CD2 recorded London 1977
DECCA BRITISH MUSIC COLLECTION 475047-2 [2CDs: 71.47+57.16]


Thomas Allen has been exploring the ballad repertoire recently for Hyperion – I had the pleasure of reviewing his second disc on this site – and now Decca returns to the collecting fold two LPs made a full quarter of a century ago by two of Britain’s leading singers, Ben Luxon and Felicity Palmer. There are still enough unreconstructed nostalgics out there to make this twofer an attractive proposition and I can recommend it thoroughly. Lighter fare, though, needs care – the Scylla and Charybdis of lieder affectation on the one side and bluff yeomanry on the other are devoutly to be avoided.

In Luxon we had one of the most characterful and comprehensive of artists, a baritone of feeling and nuance. He is high spirited too, flexible and generous and sensitive without descending to the maudlin. There’s what one can best call a naturalness of utterance in his ballad singing as well; this isn’t, one feels, a cloak he’s put on for the recording studio, rather it’s an indissoluble component of his artistic breadth. True or not that’s what Luxon makes us feel and that’s an art in itself. He is generous in Give me a ticket to Heaven but is ringingly powerful in Huhn’s setting of Henley’s self-aggrandizing Invictus (seldom was a man more Captain of his Soul than the barrel chested Luxon). Conversational ease runs throughout Friend o’mine - heartfelt, restrained, abjuring quasi-operatic show and his Quilter setting is attractive (listen to David Willison here and throughout – excellent). Well yes and there’s the Floral Dance as well, with shades of Peter Dawson and more recent impersonations by television light entertainers. But as Larry Sanders might advise us – no flipping. Stay the course and listen to Luxon mining it for all it’s worth – this is a massive interpretation, taking in bluster, brio, sentiment, sentimentality, self-pity, a veritable Cornish pistachio verismo crackerjack of a number. If you want to hear cornet, fiddle and big bass drum impersonated by one man then Luxon’s your man.

And then what follows but a truly beautiful reading of I’ll walk beside you. Too much sugar? I don’t think so. He lightens his tone with true acumen and brings something special, something intimate, something that is in the song but found as if anew – and it’s an affecting truth, perhaps the highlight of the discs. You fancy some rollicking? Try The carol singers where Luxon do the voices, he do. And so on throughout the set; the Nauticalia and music hall charm of Anchored and the parlando posh Mr Shadowman (Luxon the Gent) mingle with A Perfect Day, which Tom Allen sang on his most recent disc. There’s otherwise no overlap so there are no Tom or Ben choices to be made. Well, let’s admit it, I admired Allen but I loved Luxon.

Felicity Palmer, superb artist, fares well but less well than Luxon. There’s an appositely matronly edge to her My dearest heart. I liked her way with the contours of

What’s in the air today – it’s quite a big sing and she gives us a big interpretation, if perhaps one overladen with sophistication. That element of simplicity is not foreign to her, though, as we can here in A mood – where she is notably successful in conveying its charm and reserve And she can also rival Luxon in the music hall stakes; she breaks into coster cockney in It’s all right in the summertime (all right she’s not Vesta Victoria but she’s pretty damn good). And so is her pianist, estimable John Constable, who throws in a drunk act of his own here. Disappointments? Well Luxon and Palmer have one overlap and that’s I’ll walk beside you where she uses fractionally – but crucially – less rubato than Luxon and where her tonal production is just too recital hall for the song. As it is in W H Squire’s If I might come to you – the drawing room intrudes rather too much here and there’s not enough unbending. But Bird of love divine is a rousing closer – fine declamatory singing.

Notes are relatively sparse and composer and lyricist details patchy but I can’t say I cared a bit – especially when Luxon is at full sail, his mighty Cornish frame breasting the foam and the spray and pushing back the years.

Jonathan Woolf


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