Warren is a practitioner of Romantic Americana, not in the Far West open
spaces sense but rather following the lineage traced from Macdowell's tone
poems, Chadwick's Melpomene, Carpenter's Sea Drift and Coerne's
Excalibur. British counterparts might include Bantock, Delius, some
Bax and a little RVW. Amongst her contemporaries she is more easily identified
with the Barber-Menotti axis than the Copland-Bernstein side.
She paints unapologetically with a giant Mahlerian palette. Hampson whose
notes stress his strong commitment to the music and indeed to the conductor
(whose memorial album this is) is recorded agreeably closely, the better
to appreciate his glorious voice which dominates all four works.
Warren is given to picturesque devices (wind, bells, song) in the orchestra
to illustrate the words being set. This is coupled with a stratospherically
ringing Delian ecstasy among the voices. The settings and style are, I suppose,
pretty sentimental but they work if you turn off your cynicism for a while.
Both Korngold and Delius haunt her pages amid nights of summer stars and
a heady atmosphere comparable (for those who known this from the broadcast
magnificently sung by Brian Rayner Cook) with Havergal Brian's Wine of
Summer Symphony. The melodic lines are easy and the songs (setting poems
by Carl Sandburg) are in a single span of continuous music - no breaks.
The Harp Weaver is Bantockian and some of the rhymes are wince-making ('lap'
with 'nap') but then this is a feature of Warren's addiction to sentimentality.
If the section at 9.08 reminds me of the Victorian parlour (it ends with
a reference to a set of clothes 'just my size'!) this is not to condemn a
piece that is despite its unpromising style deeply affecting.
The Sleeping Beauty's Beethovenian introduction is rather drab but things
improve. Straussian intoxication (9.05), Bantockian jollity, bluff Graingeresque
singing (10.09) and some really over the top Mephistophelean laughter (12.04)
finally give way to Delian swoonery straight out of the high hills. This
mood is very well sustained in ecstasy (14.07) even if rhymes like kiss and
this may seem discouraging. By the way the well illustrated booklet contains
complete texts as well as an excellent introduction to Warren's life and
Abram in Egypt is filmic at first seeming to have been influenced by Rozsa.
This music is far less sentimental than the other works on the disc. What
we have is a sombre dream partaking of Bax, Rozsa and some RVW. There is
some strongly delineated work for the mixed chorus and as ever Hampson's
trencherman voice is a great pleasure. You must hear this work if you at
all enjoy Bliss's Morning Heroes, Peter Racine Fricker's Vision
of Judgement or Schmidt's Book of the Seven Seals.
My good friend, Pamela Blevins' aptly English scene painting 'Singing Earth'
appears on the cover of the CD booklet. I hope we will see more covers from
Meantime let me recommend this to all lovers of melodic vocal writing. Delians
in particular will appreciate the music as also will those who enjoy the
choral/orchestral works of RVW and the vocal and orchestral music of Korngold.
© Rob Barnett
Available from DIMus@aol.com at £11.50 sterling excl p&p.