Although I had some doubts about the stiff-legged and
ever so deliberate Basse-Danse in Marriner's Capriol,
his Pieds-en-l'air with its airy delight is amongst the best
I have heard. The Serenade has the warp and weft of Delian sweetness
and decay on the bough but would have glowed with yet greater radiance
had it been given with a larger body of strings as in Silvestri's 1960s
EMI version with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. The David
Hill Lullaby is recorded too closely for its own good - too much
reality and at too close proximity for the work's mystery to survive.
This is the only failure on the disc.
The rest of the disc is a track by track master copy
of a 1970s LP of Warlock songs. Bailey is best known internationally
for his Wagnerian exploits - especially his Wotan. Here he essays twenty-six
songs from throughout Warlock's maturity - from 1918 onwards. Bailey
had, at this time, a steady vocal production undamaged by too much operatic
traffic. Though I prefer Ian Partridge's lighter way with Youth
(on a long gone Unicorn LP) and Sleep his approach to Warlock
is as strong as Luxon's way with Butterworth. Parsons is the soul of
both flamboyance and of discretion (as in Come Sleep). These
songs range from carousing ballads to medieval religious ecstasy, to
romantic allusion, to dissolute monkery (à la Carmina Burana)
to Donne-like transcendentalism. Bailey doesn't shrink from white-smock
‘mummerset’ when the score gives some encouragement in this direction
as in Roister Doister and also in Twelve Oxen. In the
latter Bailey is joined by an anonymous male voice choir who also pop
up in Hambledon. He is a sheer delight in Yarmouth Fair with
no quaver or shake in his voice. Comparison with the 'classic' Pears
recording is much in Bailey's favour. Ha'nacker Mill is done
with great feeling and subtle colouration as is the lovely nostalgia
of My Own Country - though I still hanker for a recording of
this song by John Noble.
I have been listening recently to Marriner's way with Tippett's
leading compositions for string orchestra and there too he is absolutely
The booklet has a brief but rather good outline by
Kenneth Chalmers - clearly a fixture for this series - but not the texts.
Warlockians will not want to miss this collection which
is made de rigueur by the 26 Bailey tracks.