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To Music - Isobel Baillie and Kathleen Ferrier – solos and duets from their recordings: 1941-45
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)

Come Ye Sons of Art – Sound the Trumpet
Stript of their green our groves appear
I saw that you were grown so high
The Indian Queen – Let us wander not unseen [Chorus; We the spirits of the air]
King Arthur – Shepherd, shepherd, leave decoying
Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1750) arr. Arthur SOMERVELL
Ottone, Re di Germania – Come to me, soothing sleep; Spring is coming
Thomas ARNE (1710-1778)

The Judgment of Paris – O ravishing delight
The Tempest – Where the bee sucks
Maurice GREENE (1696-1755)

Anthem; O God of Righteousness – I will lay me down in peace
Anthem; Praise the Lord, O my soul – O Praise the Lord
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714-1787)

Orfeo ed Euridice – What is Life?
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)

The Dream of Gerontius – My Work is done
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

To Music (An die Musik)
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)

With a waterlily
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

(49) Deutsche Volkslieder – Sister Dear; Sweetheart [Feinsliebchen, du sollst mir nicht barfuss geh’n]
(6) Lieder Op.3 No.1 – Constancy [Liebestreu]
TRADITIONAL

O can ye sew cushions?
O whistle and I’ll come to you
Comin’ through the rye
Lady John Douglas SCOTT (1810-1900)

Think on me
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)

(6) Duets – Greeting; I would that my love
Isobel Baillie (soprano) and Kathleen Ferrier (contralto)
Gerald Moore (piano)
Recorded 1941-45
APR 5544 [68.37]


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This charming and curiously affecting disc conjoins two famous British singers, born a generation apart. Ferrier and Baillie first met in 1941 when they sang Messiah. They began duet recordings together in 1945. The reason they did so, as Bryan Crimp’s notes relate, was due to Ferrier’s refusal to sing any further solo recordings for producer Walter Legge. She enlisted Isobel Baillie’s assistance to complete her contractual obligations in duet recordings after what seems to have been an amorous lunge from Legge or as Crimp puts it in a masterpiece of oratory "the Casanova in Legge succeeded in so offending Ferrier that she refused point blank to fulfil her recently signed contract." (In his biography of Ferrier, Maurice Leonard quoted her teacher Roy Henderson, who remembered an incident in which Legge had apparently tried it on with Ferrier in a taxi).

However they came about and whatever the tonal improbabilities may have seemed they make a fine pairing. Sound the Trumpet is delightfully lithe and lively with a fine vocal blend and their unison singing in the other Purcell duets (from The Indian Queen and King Arthur) is full of affection and doubtless they were using the old Moffat edition - a name familiar for his realisations of "old" music in Britain. Apart from the fresh and verdant Mendelssohn settings the rest of the disc is given over to the singers’ solo recordings.

Baillie is in ever-youthful voice; she’d first recorded in 1924 and was something of a veteran of the studios but they always struggled to capture her pure tone and it’s well known that she sometimes turned away from the microphone when recording. Her solo Purcell is attractive and only increases in pleasure when one listens to Gerald Moore – his rolled chords in Stript of their green our groves appear are splendid. She’s delicious in Arne – gorgeously apt upward portamento in Where the bee sucks with a splendidly witty Moore trill. Her traditional songs are verdant, even though her Brahms is perhaps on a less exalted level. There is some unusual Ferrier material here as well, including the 1944 test pressings of Gluck, Elgar and Brahms. Her Handel was always impressive; she may privately and saucily have mocked her own perceived portentous delivery of some arias but the Handel-Somervell Come to me, soothing sleep has always been and remains a favourite of mine for its beautiful gravity. Her Maurice Greene is marked by rapt diminuendi in I will lay me down in peace (with its simple but effective Roper arrangement) and the splendidly ‘old school’ O Praise the Lord. We get a glimpse of the famous what-might-have-been, one of those what-if counterfactuals so beloved of military historians and record collectors, in her Angel in Gerontius in this test recording. We also find her ready for Brahms’ gravity in Liebestreu, here termed Constancy and like everything on the disc sung in English.

The test pressings have been released before but not in nearly such good sound as here. All the transfers in fact are first class. These discs have been something of a lacuna for Ferrier admirers and they will be pleased to make their acquaintance and savour their charm.

Jonathan Woolf

 


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