This disc is splendid ... with one exception. But, nevertheless, I have not
enjoyed a song recital as much as this for many years and I recommend it.
The five songs by Parry included some wonderful surprises. Shall I Compare
Thee to A Summer's Day has a fine piano accompaniment and effective vocal
line although the tonic chords at the end may be too many. Willow, Willow,
Willow is nostalgic in style and, perhaps, the repetition of the word
'willow' is excessive. And Yet I Love Her 'Till I Die is a beautiful,
sensitive song but I do question some of Parry's vocal intervals and how
low notes are used for the important personal pronoun followed by a leap
which dispels the romantic atmosphere. But it is a good song. To
Blossoms may have benefitted from more rubato but Rosaline
is simply magnificent. I had to play it twice. Not only is it a very fine
poem by Thomas Lodge but Parry does it justice. It has contrast and is both
compelling and very touching.
Roger Quilter's Seven Elizabethan Lyrics Op 12 of 1908 is in a different
class. Here is a consistent and superb composer of songs. His music always
fits the words and sometimes to amazing perfection and often his accompaniments,
which are very supportive and basic in design, are so effective. And, Quilter
never wallowed! The gem of the set is My Life's Delight. One can only
admire Quilter's evident expertise in song writing. The Faithless
Shepherdess is another fine song capturing again the rare joy of both
the singer and the piano being equal.
In the setting of Ben Jonson's By a Fountainside the composer avoids
the 'watery style' of Liszt, Debussy and Ravel and provides a simple and
relevant accompaniment. There are some glorious harmonies in Fair House
of Joy which briefly hints at Elizabethan keyboard music.
The disappointment is the Four Old English Lyrics of Delius. The songs
are too intense and the words are not well set. To Daffodils has a
curious vocal line clearly at odds with Herrick's text and the song lacks
space. As to the next song It Was A Lover and His Lass it is simply
awful. The words do not fit the music and it is absolutely excruciating.
In fact it was so ghastly that I consulted several of my colleagues who agreed
that this was poor composition although one did say that these songs were
very difficult 'to bring off'. If you want to hear a good setting of the
next song So White, So Soft, So Sweet is She (a setting of Ben Jonson),
you should investigate Irving Fine's choral song cycle The Hour Glass.
Delius has no idea. The final song Spring does not work either.
Peter Warlock's Sweet and Twenty is a welcome relief after the Delius.
But this song needs more space. The Merry Month of May by E.J. Moeran
is a fine song with a superb piano part. One brief section before the final
reprise does not quite work but it is an attractive piece by a very gifted
The performances are very good. I think Martin Hindmarsh is rather stretched
in the Delius but that is the composer's fault not his. Do buy this disc.
It has a lot to offer.