Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

24 songs sung by Ian Ford (boy alto)
An die musik
Mandoline; Après un rêve
arr My Lady's garden
Silent Worship
arr Marienwürmchen
King David
Mississippi Moon
 The Night
 O Rest in the Lord
Präludium; Three Motets
arr In the mornin'
 This endris night
 The Birds; Corpus Christi Carol; A New Year Carol; O waly, waly
Christ, the children's friend
Walking in the air

Ian Ford (boy alto)
Andrew Plant (piano)
Fergus Black (organ)
John Stephens (violin)
rec 20 Oct, 3 Nov 1996, Oundle School Chapel
MCPS IAF-CD1  [75.24]

This is an unhackneyed and generous selection which reflects both artistry and an original approach. British music enthusiasts will want to seek it out for its rare Milford, Rubbra and Head.

The album is stunning, visually speaking, and there are extensive (English only) notes but no texts. The latter is no real hardship as Ian Ford's diction is well defined in the English texts. There are however lapses in accent (try the Brahms) and blips in breath control noticeable in the French and German songs which were never designed to be sung by such a voice. Ford, who avoids the 'hoot' beloved of succeeding generations of boy altos, is lovingly accompanied in a bell-clear acoustic.

The Schubert is nicely paced but the voice is strained and exertion is apparent with a similar problem carried over into the Schumann which however includes some beautifully held high notes - equally well done in Après un rêve. Mandoline is trippingly done. No reservations about the lovingly shaped Quilter song which is much better suited to Ford's voice. The same can be said of the Handel and the Head with its quasi-Handelian Christmas feel. Whenever I hear King David I am reminded of the Janet Baker Saga disc. Ford does it very well with some lovingly floated high notes - a very suitable song for such a voice. Wayman's swaying ballad is again well suited to Ford's voice - a touch of Sondheim and mid-west USA. Rubbra's The Night is a slow and meditational song. Good to see it in this company.

The bright opulence of Micheelsen's organ solo Präludium paves the way for his touching settings of 1937. The deep notes in the Ives arrangement do not convince but all is compensated for by Robin Milford's simple sing-song setting. More Milford please. The Cornelius is of similar simplicity. Of the Britten songs Corpus is extremely finely done (there are some lovely moments in these settings) as is Walking in the Air (a trademark song amongst boy altos)..

First reactions to 75+ minutes of solo boy alto is unlikely to be favourable …at least in my case. In fact, bar the flagged issues of breath control and accent (intermittent defects) this makes a refreshing collection though inevitably pitched at a narrow audience.

Rob Barnett

NOTE: The disc can be ordered from Andrew Plant at 01728 452081 (phone/fax); The price is only £5.00 plus £1.00 for post and packing. Please obtain a quote from Andrew if you would like to order from outside the UK.

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