The British drawing room ballad no doubt had its shortcomings,
not least sentimentality, but at its best its virtues, not least attractive
and fluent melody, more than compensated. It is no surprise to me that
singers continue to programme them in concert and to record them. Few,
however, sing them with such affection or accomplishment as Thomas Allen.
This Hyperion release, covers the period from the mid-1870s to the mid-1930s.
It includes many of the best known of them with some others which may
be less familiar. The interpretations are invariably intelligent and
are – as we might expect from such a distinguished operatic exponent
– often dramatic, though never overstated.
It is good to be reminded of Frank Lambert, whose floreat
was circa 1900, while there is ample opportunity to appreciate
Haydn Wood’s skill in vocal writing in these four examples (which do
not include his most famous ballad Roses of Picardy, though all
four are roughly contemporary). Jack Robson’s Northumbrian song is charming,
too, likewise Alison Travers’ A Mood; Sanderson’s glorious Until,
more usually heard for high voice, again delights. Most serious, maybe,
is Graham Peel’s Housman setting, more fluid than Butterworth but equally
Not all the songs are British; two (Trees and
Banks of the Wabash) are American, three if we count Smilin’Through,
whose composer was born in London, but emigrated to the States. Two
songs are "traditional" but Tate and Quilter, both notable
contributors to the British light music repertory, arrange them characterfully.
Malcolm Martineau is the
excellent accompanist; recording and presentation
are first rate (the booklet prints all the
words and supplies much fascinating information.
I had forgotten that Love Could I Only
Tell Thee was inserted into The Geisha.
I did not realise that Stephen Adams (Michael
Maybrick) was involved with the famous Victorian
poisoning case. Strongly recommended.
received February 2008
Mr John Mathews of Newport,
Isle of Wight informs me that Stephen Adams
was not James Maybrick (1838-1889), several
times Mayor of Ryde and suspect in the "Jack
the Ripper" murders. He was instead Michael
Maybrick (officially 1844, but now probably
1841-1913), the younger brother, a totally
respectable and honourable man, who was Mayor
of Ryde in his retirement.