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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    



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Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
The Songs
The Shepherd's Song [2:44]
Queen Mary's Song [3:39]
Is she not passing fair [2:43]
Rondel [1:40]
A Song of Autumn [2:49]
The wind at dawn [2:55]
Like to the Damask Rose [3:26]
Through the long days [2:01]
The Poet's Life [3:12]
The Pipes of Pan [4:45]
In the dawn [3:01]
Speak, Music [2:54]
In Moonlight [2:17]
Pleading [2:50]
Oh, soft was the song [1:59]
Was it some golden star? [2:37]
Twilight [2:53]
The Torch [2:10]
The River [4:09]
A Child Asleep [3:27]
Arabian Serenade [2:15]
Still to be neat [1:43]
Modest and Fair [1:35]
Catherine Wyn-Rogers (mezzo); Neil Mackie (tenor); Cristopher Maltman (baritone); Malcolm Martineau (piano)
rec. 24-25 April 1999, Southlands College, London. DDD
SOMM SOMMCD220 [65:07]
Experience Classicsonline

A good selection of some charming Elgar songs.
 
Wyn-Rogers sings with sensitivity and conviction, and is particularly effective in In Moonlight, in which Elgar sets Shelley’s poem to the Canto popolare tune from his overture In the South. It is lovely to hear the melody in this version, and it is beautifully sung. I was not quite so convinced by Neil Mackie who, to my ear, employs a bit too much vibrato, and whose voice has a slight edge to it – robust but not beautiful, and with a slightly rough timbre. It seems to me that Mackie would be perfect for Gilbert and Sullivan, but does not really have the refinement and elegance needed for these songs. In The River, for example, the words are not as clear as they could be, and Through the long days, lacks the force of conviction, as if the singer does not have the full measure of the songs.
 
Maltman, however, is the real star of the show. He gives really musical, and intelligent, performances of these works. He captures perfectly the nuances and the inflections of the text. He understands the poems and communicates the words effectively, bringing the music to life. He does not just sing effortlessly, but tells the stories, and draws the listener in. Listen, for example, to The Pipes of Pan where he combines that beautiful tone of his with passion, sincerity and spirit (as in The wind at dawn).
 
Malcolm Martineau, the accompanist, does a fine job, with, for example, a lovely, delicate accompaniment to The Pipes of Pan.
 
On the whole, this is a good disc. All the singers perform well, although I do feel that Maltman is the real communicator and that he reaches out to the audience with the tales, whereas Mackie - and, to a lesser extent, Wyn-Rogers - just sing nicely. The songs have been well chosen to include a range of moods from the incredibly atmospheric Twilight through to the spirited and almost Schubertian Arabian Serenade. Certainly of interest to lovers of English song.
 
Em Marshall

see also review by Jonathan Woolf

 

 


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