> WEGENER Songs [RB]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Margaret WEGENER (b.1920)
Music to my Listening - Songs of Margaret Wegener

Song (1994) - Christina Rossetti ‡
Remember (1994) - Christina Rossetti ‡
Echo (1994) - Christina Rossetti ‡
Down by the Salley Gardens (1948) - Yeats †
Take, O, take (1946) - Shakespeare †
I know a bank (1952) - Shakespeare †
Faery Song (1952) - Shakespeare ‡
Dewdrop and Diamond (1996) - Robert Graves ‡
Piping Down the Valleys (2001) - William Blake ‡
Grasshopper and Cricket (1995) - Keats ‡
To Sleep - Keats ‡
The House (1977) - Kathleen Raine ‡
Simile (2001) - Arnold Rattenbury ‡
Look not in my eyes (1997) - A.E. Housman †
All sounds have been as Music (1993) - Wilfred Owen †
The Straw (1996) - Robert Graves †
Nod (1942) - Walter de la Mare ‡
The Dandelion - anon ‡
I heard a Skylark Sing (1957) - S. T. Coleridge ‡
Cats - Eleanor Farjeon ‡
Georgina Colwell (sop) ‡
Stephen Varcoe (bar) †
Nigel Foster (piano)
rec 3 Jan 2002, Culford School, Bury St Edmunds
full ordering details at foot of review

MUSICA ARIOSA no number [49.30]

Margaret Wegener is 82 and has been composing since an early age. She is a qualified teacher with music as her major subject. Her music has drawn praise from John Rutter, Vaughan Williams and Herbert Howells.

Wegener is revealed as a singer of the ineffably sorrowful lyric. Song and Remember, both Christina Rossetti poems, are well within that frame and the sigh inherent in the words haply may remember and haply may forget creeps in the listener’s ear.

After the Finzian fall of I heard a skylark, complete with melismatic treatment (cf. Howells' King David) Cats is almost casual. The Dandelion 'yellow as gold' is comparable with songs by Michael Head (now there is another composer whose songs are deserving of recording in a comprehensive Edition). Notable is the singer's ecstatic delivery of 'and blow my hair away'. Nod prompts recollection of Moeran's Joyce settings.

Varcoe's second group of songs includes The Straw. He is in resinous voice tending towards vibrato. The poem is not the most conducive to music and draws an angular setting in which a sense of defiant protest recalls the darkness of Channel Firing (Finzi/Hardy) and of Dover Beach (Barber/Arnold). All sounds have been as music is out of the school of minstrelsy touched with Anglican oratory. It has a relishable pendant 'shudder' to the theme. The music hints at Vaughan Williams' 'noisy bells' of Bredon. Look not in my eyes has been set before. Wegener studiously avoids existing examples. Here, as so often on this disc, Nigel Foster (a familiar and sensitive practitioner in British song) provides a further voice alongside the singer's. He makes a duet rather than functioning as a servile pathfinder to the voice's imperium. There is a lovely sway to the voice in the setting of the words 'A Grecian lad as I hear tell.'

Varcoe's I know a bank is lovingly rounded. How he relishes that phrase I know a bank - a phrasing picked up in the piano accompaniment at 0.58. There is something of balladry in this music but so much more. I recommend this song very strongly.

The booklet (English only) provides short profiles of the singers and the composer. The composer provides a few sentences of essential description for each song but sadly there are no texts; not that English speakers will have any difficulty in following the words. It is a pity that the singer for each song is not identified in the booklet or insert. Granted it is obvious who sings what but it would have been preferable if that detail had been picked up.

It is even more of a pity that we were not told more about the composer and her music. The notes are all very general. A website would help.

The lack of a catalogue number does not bode well and is likely to be an obstacle to commercial sales.

This disc is a further example of a subscription effort. The subscribers are listed in the booklet and the list includes names familiar in the British music landscape: John Rutter, Paul Martyn-West, Peter Heywood and Kenneth Bayliss. The Ida Carroll Trust also supported the recording. They are a frequent presence in a variety of British recording projects often associated with that dynamo of musical renaissance in the North West of England, the recorder player, John Turner.

Short playing time is a disadvantage but these treasurable songs are strong and are placed four-square in the British lyric songmaking tradition. If you appreciate the songs of Orr, Howells, Finzi and Head or the glories of Ian Venables and John Williamson then this disc is a must for you. I certainly want to hear more by Wegener. This is lovingly rounded music with words and music in emotional equipoise. Too long has Wegener's sweetness been wasted on the desert air.

Rob Barnett


Price £12.00 or two for £20.00
Margaret Wegener
Dingley Dell
West Drive
United Kingdom
Phone: 01691 662616
Georgina Colwell: georgina@musicair.demon.co.uk
Nigel Foster: nigelfoster@excite.co.uk

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