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Roger QUILTER (1877-1953)
A Quilter Compendium

A Children’s Overture (1919)*
Where the Rainbow Ends – Suite (1911) +
Three English Dances (1910) +
Non nobis, Domine (1934) ~
Seven Elizabethan Lyrics (1908) ♪
Piano solos:

Weep you no more ○ (1908)
The Fuchsia Tree ○ (1923)
Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal ○ (1904)
Songs:

It was a lover and his lass (1921) ●◘
Love’s Philosophy (1905) ●
Come away, death (1905) ☼
Now sleeps the crimson petal (1904) ☼
O mistress mine (1905) ♂
Go lovely rose ♂ (1922)
* Light Music Society Orchestra conducted by Sir Vivian Dunn (rec. 1969)
+ Northern Sinfonia conducted by Richard Hickox (rec. 1989)
~ Finchley Choral Society, Barnet and District Choral Society, Central Band of the RAF
conducted by Wing Cdr. J.L. Wallace (rec. 1965)
♪ Sir Thomas Allen (baritone) and Geoffrey Parsons (piano) (rec. 1989)
● Dame Janet Baker (mezzo-soprano) and Gerald Moore (piano) (rec. 1967)
◘ Dame Felicity Lott (soprano) and Ann Murray (mezzo-soprano) and Graham Johnson (piano) (rec. 1991)
☼ Ian Bostridge (tenor) and Julius Drake (piano) (rec. 1999)
♂ Frederick Harvey (baritone) and Gerald Moore (piano) and Jack Byfield (piano) (rec. 1965)
○ Stephen Hough (piano) (rec. in 1997, 1986 and 1991)
Recordings made at Abbey Road Studios, London except Seven Elizabethan Lyrics in St Martin’s, East Woodhay, Berks; Stephen Hough’s piano solo of Weep you no more in New Broadcasting House, Manchester; and Now sleeps the crimson petal in the Theresa L. Kaufman Concert Hall, New York
EMI CLASSICS 5 85149-2 [74:11]

 

A Quilter compilation is always welcome - this one especially so, since it includes instrumental and orchestral items as well as songs. As usual with these EMI collections, it is a mix of previous releases dating between 1965 and 1991. (In passing’ I commend the albums devoted to Quilter songs produced by Hyperion, Chandos and the now defunct Collins Classics but freshly released by Naxos. review)

Quilter’s light music enchants and perhaps none more so than his A Children’s Overture. It was originally intended as the overture to Where the Rainbow Ends (1911) but Quilter set it aside and returned to it later in the decade. It was inspired by A Baby’s Opera by Walter Crane, an attractively illustrated collection of nursery rhymes with music. Quilter weaves a number of these into this attractive overture, full of nostalgic charm. Dunn responds with a very sympathetic rendering and how the Light Music Orchestra joyfully responds with some especially beautifully delicate phrasing from the woodwinds.

From his incidental music for the Edwardian nostalgic stage play Where the Rainbow Ends Quilter created a suite that described the characters and scenes in the story. The play was premiered on 21 December 1911 and became a firm family Christmas favourite in most years until 1959 – a reflection on our too materialistic times? Richard Hickox and the Northern Sinfonia capture all the suite’s enchanting magic without allowing the music to become cloyingly sentimental. The lovely ethereal, pastoral ‘Rainbow Land’ opens the suite followed by the gossamer light and plaintive ‘Will o’ the Wisp’. For ‘Rosamund’ (the play’s heroine) Quilter writes one of his most beautiful, slow-dreamy melodies, speaking so eloquently of the little girl’s fortitude and yearning for her lost parents. ‘Fairy Frolic’ is just that, light and frothy while ‘Goblin Forest’ is an amusing, scary, well slightly scary (this is a children’s play after all), evocation. This performance is way ahead of the somewhat stodgy Marco Polo rival recording.

Still with the orchestral items in this collection, Three English Dances, a favourite of Percy Grainger, were first performed at a Prom in June 1910. (Grainger quoted from the first dance in his In a Nutshell Suite [1916]). All three have that delicate charm and sense of yearning and nostalgia that is essentially Quilter.

Stephen Hough plays his own sympathetic arrangements of Weep you no more and Now sleeps the crimson petal that in no way diminish the grace and delicacy of the original songs. He also adds his own pellucid touch to Quilter’s own arrangement of The Fuchsia Tree. Lovely.

To the songs. Singing Shakespeare’s It was a lover and his lass are both Dame Janet Baker (with Gerald Moore); and, in a gorgeous duet, Dame Felicity Lott and Ann Murray (accompanied by Graham Johnson). Janet Baker is also heard eloquently pleading Shelley’s Love’s Philosophy. Sir Thomas Allen, so sensitive to the lines and colourings of Quilter songs (his English songs Masterclass at the Friends of Finzi weekend in Ludlow in 2001 was a very memorable experience) sings the Seven Elizabethan Lyrics: ‘Weep you no more’; ‘My Life’s Delight’; ‘Damask Roses’; ‘The Faithless Shepherdess’; ‘Brown is My Love’; ‘By a Fountainside’ and ‘Fair House of Joy’. Ian Bostridge (with Julius Drake) plaintively sings Come away, death and that Quilter favourite, the hauntingly beautiful Now sleeps the crimson petal. And that oaken-voiced baritone, Frederick Harvey, enthusiastically sings O mistress mine and another Quilter favourite, Go, lovely rose.

Rounding off the compendium is Quilter’s rousing setting of Non nobis, Domine commissioned by Walter Creighton for a Pageant of Parliament, a grand entertainment of Creighton’s devising mounted at London’s Royal Albert Hall, London through the greater part of July 1934. Quilter wrote it for boys’ voices, four-part chorus and chorus and orchestra. It is performed here in an arrangement by Norman Richardson for four-part chorus and wind band. As with so many Quilter compositions, Non nobis, Domine raises a lump in one’s throats. As I said it is rousing but there is also that unique Quilter quality of sweet yearning and nostalgia.

Alas a note of carping. As usual with reissues, EMI choose to be economical with their documentation, too economical for there are no lyrics printed.

A first rate compilation of Quilter songs and light music. A lovely nostalgic wallow; ideal for the Christmas season. Wholeheartedly recommended

Ian Lace

 

 



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