> "An Edwardian Gentleman's Songbook" [PLS]: Classical CD Reviews- June2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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"The Edwardian Gentleman’s Songbook"
HENRY BISHOP: My Pretty Jane.
HATTON: Come Gentle Zephyr.
G SMART: The Squirrel.
STANFORD: Lullaby; A Japanese Lullaby; The Unknown Sea; Fairy Lives; The City Child.
PEARSALL: Waters of Elle.
FREDERICK BRIDGE: Two Snails; The Goslings.
SULLIVAN: Once Again; How Many Hired Servants (from The Prodigal Son)
DIBDIN: Tom Bowling.
B COOKE: Epitaph on a Dormouse.
F H COWEN: The Children’s Garden.
TRAD (arr. various): The Last Rose of Summer; The Snowy Breasted Pearl; Ye Banks and Braes.
James Griffett (tenor)
Pro Cantione Antiqua, directed by Mark Brown
Rec 1980s?
REGIS RRC 1083 [63.00?]

The first point to make about this very desirable release is that the Edwardian gentleman of the title must have had old-fashioned tastes. Apart perhaps from the five Stanford songs and maybe Frederick Bridge’s two parody partsongs, the repertoire here is more Victorian (or indeed earlier) than Edwardian. Particularly is this so of the "glees" by Hatton, Smart, Paxton, Pearsall and Cooke, sung with delicious balance and accomplishment by the nine voice Pro Cantione Antiqua. They include such names as Ian Partridge, Timothy Penrose, Charles Brett and Christopher Keyte.

James Griffett, who also belongs to PCA, sings the rest of the tracks. We know him to be a fine interpreter of Stanford on record and these five examples, all new to me, are sung intelligently and with beguiling smoothness and lyricism. Many of his other contributions are songs which were popular in Victorian times and these go well, too.

Cowen’s The Children’s Garden sounds rather like his once-hackneyed The Better Land and is at least as good. The two Sullivan items show Mr Griffett as a devotee of that composer; the excerpt from The Prodigal Son makes one wish for a recording of the complete work. All the items, bar one, perhaps two, are British. The Stephen Foster, again one of his lesser-known songs, and the tangy setting of Ye Banks and Braes, by Maurice Ravel, no less are the exceptions.

The recording is excellent and all in all this is, I repeat, highly recommendable; the insert does not include the words of the song (Mr Griffett’s clear diction makes this less important than it otherwise might be) nor the name of the sympathetic piano accompanist.

Philip L Scowcroft

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