> Ireland, Rubbra, Quilter [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- July2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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John IRELAND (1879-1962)
Sea Fever *
The Vagabond *
The Bells of San Marie *
The Holy Boy +
A Comedy Overture #
Edmund RUBBRA (1901-1986)

Psalm 6; O Lord, rebuke me not <
Psalm 23; The Lord is my Shepherd <
Psalm 150; Praise Ye the Lord <
Roger QUILTER (1877-1953)

Slumber Song >
Where go the boats >
Now sleeps the crimson petal ~
Weep you no more ^
Down by the Salley Gardens =
Drink to me only =
Ye Banks and Braes =
Now sleeps the crimson petal =
The Fair house of joy =
To Daisies =
Loveís Philosophy -
Over the mountains =
Bryn Terfel, baritone, and Malcolm Matineau, piano *
Stephen Ryde-Weller and Nicholas Richardson, trebles, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Hill +
Grimethorpe Colliery Band conducted by Elgar Howarth #
Kathleen Ferrier, contralto and Ernest Lush, piano <
Julian Lloyd Webber, cello and John Lenehan, piano >
Benjamin Luxon, baritone and David Willison, piano ~
Elly Ameling, soprano and Rudolf Jansen, piano ^
Kathleen Ferrier, contralto and Phyllis Spurr, piano =
Jennifer Vyvyan, soprano and Ernest Lush, piano Ė
Recorded 1951- 1995
DECCA 470195-2 [61í28]

 

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This is the strangest compilation in the Decca British Music Collection Iíve yet encountered. Rubbra is represented by the three Psalm settings, Ireland by three songs, a two-boy-trebles-and-orchestra Holy Boy and the brass band Comedy Overture, whilst the Quilter selection includes the two innocuous (or anodyne if you feel bloody minded) cello morceaux, songs and arrangements of folksongs. Iíve searched for a decisive and intellectually satisfying thread that binds these disparate creatures together and apart from the ignoble thought of barrel scraping I can only conclude that itís Kathleen Ferrier. Itís Ferrier who sings the Rubbra Psalms and eight of the Quilter settings and no issue of Ferrierís can ever be accused of barrel-scraping superfluity and itís her contributions that lift this otherwise irrelevant issue to the level of significance.

In fact the whole CD is something of a discographic mess with recording details limited to dates only, which is exceptionally unhelpful, especially in the case of Ferrier. The Rubbra settings are in fact from her last radio recital in January 1953 from Maida Vale Studio 5. Also included in that recital were songs by Howard Ferguson and William Wordsworth and the whole recital was recorded and is intact at the National Sound Archive. A previous recording of the Psalms also exists there, in much poorer sound, but dating from the year of the settingsí first performance by Ferrier, 1947, where she is accompanied by Frederick Stone. The bulk of the Quilter settings were made for Decca in December 1951 and are the last sessions she was to make with her accompanist Phyllis Spurr and are famous mementos of her art.

As for the performances themselves, again itís something of a mixed bag. I donít much like Terfelís over-interpreted way with Ireland. In Sea Fever he makes dramatic and exaggerated winnowing of the line to near inaudibility in the interests of theatricality; his dynamics in The vagabond are wildly exaggerated and his crooned half voice in The Bells of San Marie disappears into the ether in a vacuous attempt at significance. By contrast I did enjoy Howarth and the Grimethorpe Colliery Bandís A Comedy Overture Ė really splendidly generous music making. The Rubbra Psalms have been issued before of course but they are amongst the lesser known of Ferrierís live material. Some acetate scratch is audible but itís not at all problematic in these strongly delineated and moving settings, which range from austerity to ecstasy and joy, an ascent made more involving still through the medium of Ferrierís burnished contralto. Benjamin Luxon gives Terfel a lesson in sensitivity in his only outing on Now sleeps the crimson petal (also sung by Ferrier in her groups of songs). Luxonís scaled and proportionate singing is assertive and imaginative and never sinks to the level of the merely gestural or generic. Elly Ameling is very occasionally unidiomatic in Weep you no more though this is beautiful singing per se and a worthy addition.

As I said this is a rather bewildering issue ranging in recording time from 1951-95. I canít imagine British Music specialists needing it or Ferrier enthusiasts not already having her contributions elsewhere. Sorry to sound sour but it could and should have been much better than this.

Jonathan Woolf

See also review by Christopher Howell


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