Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Ronald STEVENSON (b.1928)
A'e Gowden Lyric: Songs by Ronald Stevenson

A Child's Garden of Verses [1-17]
1. Dedication
2. Bed in Summer
3. The Land of Nod
4. Time to Rise
5. Singing
6. Rain
7. Windy Nights
8. Shadow March
9. My Shadow
10. Fairy Bread
11. The Swing
12. Summer Sun
13. From a Railway Carriage
14. Autumn Fires
15. When the golden day is done
16. The Lamplighter
17. Envoy
18. Traighean (Shores)
19. The Robber
20. Hill Sang
21. The Gaelic Muse
22. The Buckie Braes
23. The Quiet Comes In
24. The Bobbin-Winder
25. To the Future
26. O Wha's the Bride
27. Trompe L'Oeil
28. The Bonny Broukit Bairn
29. Fairytales
30. Hallowe'en Sang
31. The Plum Tree
32. The Day is Düne
33. The Rose of All the World
34. The Droll Wee Man
35. A'e Gowden Lyric
Susan Hamilton (soprano)
John Cameron (piano)
world premiere recordings
rec. 21-22 Nov 2001, St Mary's Collegiate Church, Haddington, East Lothian. DDD
DELPHIAN DCD 34006 [66.59]


This disc will be a revelation to many, and firmly establishes the composer of the virtuosic 80-min long Passacaglia on DSCH for piano solo as also the most original and most lyrical voice in Scottish music today.

These characterful settings of quite diverse, but essentially Scottish, poetry range from the chuckling syncopations of Soutar's "The Buckie Braes" to the earthy pathos of MacDiarmid's "O Wha's the Bride" - from the tracery of threads in "The Bobbin Winder" (MacDiarmid) to the sleepy bairn of "The Quiet comes in" (Soutar). There are moments of sheer melodic beauty and felicities too numerous to mention - with piano writing of consummate artistry (here superbly realised by the fine pianist John Cameron). One is tempted to ask why these songs - and the few hundred others (including ten song cycles ranging from Blake to Ho Chi Minh) are not in the repertoire of every Scottish singer.

The principal work is the cycle of poems chosen (significantly) from Robert Louis Stevenson's "A Child's Garden of Verses". The young Susan Hamilton, then in the company of Neil Mackie (tenor), Richard Townhill (treble) with the composer, gave the first performance in December 1985. While this scoring was the composer's original conception he sanctioned performance by a solo voice - and what happens here in this recording is quite magical. By some artistry Susan Hamilton, while assuming the elder role in the first and last songs (as the words demand) recalls in subsequent songs (such as "Bed in Summer") her earlier experience of the music and seems to imbue her voice with the youthful timbre of twenty years previous. And in the "Shadow March" , whose childishly perceived menace pervaded the young RLS's childhood as it does the entire cycle in the music, she injects a frisson of fear into 'All round the house is the jet black night'.

One can almost feel the sensation of the swing, smell the woodsmoke and hear the clatter of the train. The poet always wished these poems to be illustrated. Ronald Stevenson is a consummate illustrator in sound - the canonic imitation in "My Shadow" and the collapsing of the "Autumn Fires" sending a shower of chromatic sparks into the evening air, are examples - the cycle a 'kinderscenen' of vividly imagined music.

The remaining settings of MacDiarmid and Soutar begin with the solitary setting of Sorley MacLean's "Traighean" - the opening clarsach-like chords of which, with the very appropriate sleeve illustration, are in the direct line of a true Scottish element from Carver to Francis George Scott - a Scottish element that is the inflected human voice. So expressive is the singing that the idiosyncracies of the poets' voices need trouble no one.

Just as the immense Passacaglia stems from the small three-bar cell of four notes (DSCH) so Stevenson's songs here are fully expressed in the miniatures of "The Rose of all the World" and the title song "A'e Gowden Lyric". And as this recital concludes the singer repeats the 'gowden lyric', quietly, fading into the distance in an evocative epilogue following that shoreline into the distance.

This disc well deserves Rob Barnett's accolade as editor's Disc of the month - for me it is likely to be the disc of the year.

Colin Scott-Sutherland

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