Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

The songs
Profiles from China
(1945) [6.29]
Three Songs
(1931) [1.20+3.12+2.03]
Mimic Tree - Five Housman Songs
(1944) [6.44]
Harp Sonata
(1952) [10.15]
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
(1948) [12.04]
Letter from Morocco
(1952) [15.25]
Gerald English (tenor)
Roland Peelman (piano)
Tasmanian SO/Antony Walker
rec songs Dec 1993, Canberra; Sonata, 1994, Sydney; 17 Sept 1993, Hobart.
Crotchet    Amazon UK    Amazon US

Recordings by Gerald English are as precious as sunshine in winter. I treasure broadcast tapes of BBC Radio 3 broadcasts by him including a superb account of Finzi's Oh Fair to See and the songs of Jasper Rooper. He is also well recalled for his role in Walton's Troilus and Cressida. He is not part of the great homogeneous sea of tenors churned out on a production line. His voice has poignancy - a penetrating nasal quality, probing and ecstatic. Glanville-Hicks is well served by it.

Glanville-Hicks was born in Melbourne and studied with Vaughan Williams, Boulanger and Wellesz. She had sojourns in Greece and the USA. She learnt her operatic craft (there are four operas and five ballets) working with Fritz Hart before his departure to Hawaii. She was married for some years to the Plymouth-born composer, Stanley Bate, whose turbulence-riven Third Symphony (1945), premiered by Adrian Boult, is a prime candidate for revival on CD.

The Chinese Profiles are settings of aphoristic poems by Eunice Tietjens. The style will be instantly familiar to and loved by anyone who has taken to the 1920s Li Tai Po settings of Arthur Bliss and Constant Lambert. The moon, rain, drunken poesy, melancholy and mossy gardens are the subject matter. The composer matches the subjects with concision and emotion.

Of the three miscellaneous songs two are by the Irish poet AE and the third is Fletcher's oft-set Sleep. These are recognisably of the genre of British lyrics. They are variously racked by the rolling Celtic surge while Sleep, in its regretful self-hypnosis, stands comfortably in the company of Gurney's and Warlock's settings of the same words. With the five Housman settings we move further into mainstream English song territory and these are as gloriously melancholy and deliciously pessimistic as the Orr, Gurney, Ireland and Vaughan Williams settings. Note the rippling arpeggio in Stars.

The Harp Sonata is a succinctly expressed delight. Serenade-like in character it strikes me as a three movement troubadour song shot through with voices familiar from William Alwyn's Lyra Angelica at one extreme and Haydn's British folksong settings at the other. I was not surprised to read that this was the most broadcast piece of Australian music in 1996.

The Wallace Stevens songs gallop lightly, glitter starrily, speak soft profundity, slewing between Britten-like economy and Finzian tenderness. These must be heard by anyone who reckons himself or herself a lover of British song.

The Letter from Morocco is the only sequence here to be accompanied by orchestra. It was borne out of composer, Paul Bowles' letters to Glanville-Hicks. These letters were part of a forty year correspondence. The sequence is honeyed, exotic, romantic, desolate and deeply serious. There is a touch of Warlock's Curlew about this. The orchestration is a glimmering web - as rich as that conjured by Szymanowski and yet not suffocating the vocal line.

A delightful disc. Good notes and technical aspects. Matchless singing. This is a discovery I am very pleased to share and recommend.

Rob Barnett

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