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God Be In My Head – sacred and secular treble solos
Sir Henry WALFORD DAVIES (1869-1941)
God be in my head [1:30]
Sir Richard RODNEY BENNETT (b.1936)
The Bird’s Lament [2:37]
Jean François LALLOUETTE (1651-1728)
O Misterium Ineffabile [1:43]
Richard SHEPHERD (b. 1949)
Let Him Who Seeks [1:38]
Pelham HUMFREY (1647-1674)
A Hymn to God the Father [2:43]
Peter WARLOCK (1894-1930)
Balulalow (Cradle Song) [1:32]
Antonio CALDARA (1670-1736)
Alma del Core [2:38]
Jeremiah CLARKE (1674-1707)
An Evening Hymn [1:57]
J.S.BACH/Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)
Ave Maria [2:27]
Peter HURFORD (b.1930)
Litany of the Holy Spirit [2:37]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
That Yonge Child [1:43]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Pie Jesu [3:20]
Skye Boat Song [2:42]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Hear my Prayer [3:34]
Traditional (arr. Britten)
The Sally Gardens [2:14]
Carl ORFF (1895-1982)
In Trutina (from Carmina Burana) [2:20]
Freddy de Rivaz (treble), Nicholas Robinson (piano and chamber organ), Simon Johnson (piano and organ)
rec. Cathedral and Abbey Church of St. Alban, 18, 20 July, 17 October 2005. DDD
GUILD GMCD7308 [38:20]

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Occasionally, you come across a disc that, despite many shortcomings, is illuminated by something very special. Sometimes, too, this can be combined with the discovery of one track which is quite exceptional. That is the case here; what we have here is, in its way, quite an amateurishly produced CD, often with quite poor balance between voice and accompaniment; but the sheer beauty of the singing of young Freddy de Rivaz makes any reservations beside the point.
It is very important to persevere beyond the first track, the ‘title number’, Walford Davies’ lovely God be in My Head. I say persevere, because the balance problems are apparent right away, with the voice almost uncomfortably close and the organ a mere distant echo. Here, Freddy’s diction, too, is at its most self-conscious, with over-long ‘a’ sounds – ‘arnd in my understarnding. But, if you listen on, I guarantee that by the end of track 2, Bennett’s The Bird’s Lament, you will be won over by the singer’s glorious voice and his natural musicianship of a very high order.
It’s perhaps the breathing and phrasing that are most remarkable in someone who was not yet fourteen at the time of recording, for both are very mature, making possible long, musically intelligent parsing. In addition, though, intonation is faultless, smack in the centre of every note, and diction, if occasionally mannered as above, is exceptionally clear. Finally, what is so lovely is the ‘untrained’ naturalness of the singing despite its high quality. This is in a sense, of course, an illusion; Freddy has received masses of training of the best sort, in his years as a chorister in St. Albans Cathedral under the guidance of Andrew Lucas, as well as elsewhere. But the characteristic of the best musical training is that it guides and develops a natural gift rather than taming it and turning into something manufactured.
There is great variety in these sixteen short tracks, from sacred numbers of various eras – Lallouette in 17th century, Mendelssohn in the 19th, Britten in the 20th – plus the occasional folk-song (Salley Gardens arranged by Britten, Evelyn Sharpe’s version of the Skye Boat Song) and opera aria (Caldara’s Alma del Core), while the final track is In Trutina from Orff’s Carmina Burana. A highly appropriate number to end with, as its title means ‘In the balance’, and the words speaks of the wavering of the adolescent between childish and adult emotions. Our Freddy not only sings this splendidly, but manages a final D which lasts for a whopping 18 seconds – not bad for young lungs!
Oh, and that one, exceptional track I mentioned at the start? That is track 10, Peter Hurford’s ineffable Litany of the Holy Spirit. It’s beyond me to describe this, you have to hear it. Suffice it to say that it’s a graphic illustration of the fact that when music is at its apparently simplest it can also be at its most devastating.
Congrats are due to all who have contributed to this disc, which has undoubtedly been produced con amore.
Gwyn Parry-Jones



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