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Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett



William WALTON (1902-1983)

The Complete Songs:-
The Winds
Tritons
Beatriz's Song
Under the Greenwood Tree
Three Facade Settings: Daphne; Through Gilded Trellises; Old Sir Faulk
Anon in Love: Fain would I change that note; O stay, sweet love; Lady, when I behold the roses; My love in her attire;
I gave her cakes and I gave her ale; To couple is a custom
A Song for the Lord Mayor's Table: The Lord Mayor's Table; Glide Gently; Wapping Old Stairs; Holy Thursday; The Contrast; Rhyme
Three Facade Settings: Long Steel Grass; Tango - Pasodoble; Popular Song
Felicity Lott (sop)
Martyn Hill (ten)
Graham Johnson (piano)
Craig Ogden (guitar)
Rec. 1996, DDD
The English Song Series, Vol. 1: reissue of Collins 14932
NAXOS 8.557112 [52'20"]


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When the Collins' Walton CD was issued in 1997, this recording met with high acclaim. Dame Felicity Lott and Graham Johnson delivered a second reading of William Walton's Sitwell song Old Sir Faulk, now capturing much more of the humour and charm of the music than in their 1990 recording (on Chandos CHAN 8722, reissued on budget-price CHAN 6653). Sadly, not all of Walton's songs on this CD are interpreted with the same high quality.

In 1992 Yvonne Kenny and Malcolm Martineau were the first to collect all Walton’s songs coupled with the complete Constant Lambert, Etcetera KTC 1140. Even the Chandos series omits the piano version of the Song of the Lord Mayor's Table. It was also the first to use the original guitar accompaniment in Anon in Love in such a complete recording. Kenny sang Christopher Palmer's piano arrangement, premièred, by the way, by Martyn Hill and Graham Johnson on 23 May 1989 at the Wigmore Hall.

Certainly there are other recordings of Anon in Love. The very first, made in 1965, was by the dedicatees Peter Pears and Julian Bream (RCA 09026 61601 2). John Mark Ainsley and Carlos Bonell's Chandos recording followed in 1993 (CHAN 9292). Hill is therefore up against strong competition. Hill's sometimes uneven voice, which occasionally lacks the charm required (apparent in the orchestral version, conducted by Richard Hickox in 1990, Chandos CHAN 8824) can be heard in Palmer's arrangements of three further Sitwell songs. His voice is only in part suited to this kind of music, from time to time sounding as if it had grown old. This can be heard at the beginning of Tritons or at the end of Long Steel Grass. This may of course have been a temporary problem.

Hill is the undoubtedly best interpreter of Under the Greenwood Tree, perhaps because the song is much better suited to a tenor than to a female singer. Compare this with Kenny and Catherine Bott in one of the four Marriner film music CDs, Chandos CHAN 8842. When Johnson takes time (he is the slowest pianist across all the recordings) to articulate all the details of Walton's art the songs achieve an impressiveness unparalleled in any other recording. Listen for example to The Winds and Beatriz's Song.

Sadly no recording of Song of the Lord Mayor's Table exists with the dedicatee Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. Heather Harper's old Decca LP with Paul Hamburger showed how important it is to find the right pace. That recording awaits reissue and sadly is not included in the Walton Centenary Edition. This cycle has great moments as in The Lord Mayor's Table and Holy Thursday. However it is not so consistent as a whole. In Beatriz's Song Lott displays all the beauty and warmth of her voice and makes Linda Finnie's interpretation (on the Hickox CD) sound grey by comparison.

In the three original Sitwell songs there are high-quality rivals. They have been recorded by Kiri Te Kanawa with Richard Amner (Sony 76 868) and, in Christopher Palmer's orchestration, by Jill Gomez under Hickox in the above-mentioned CD of 1990. Both singers draw on a wider tonal palette than Lott though Te Kanawa in Old Sir Faulk is perhaps less high-spirited than the other two.

For a super-budget recording this, as with any of the British song series (formerly Collins), is a must-have. It is to be hoped that all the other volumes will follow soon.


Jürgen Schaarwächter



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