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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


 

 

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Lights Out - songs by Gurney, Moeran, Caradon and others
Samuel WESLEY (1766-1837)

Birthday Song

SATB, Jacobs
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)

If music be the food of love

Griffel/Jacobs
Sulyen CARADON (b.1942)

Clouds; The Dancer
Griffel/Jacobs
Margaret's Song

Colwell/Foster
Dorian Dirge

Jacobs
O lovely England

SATB/Foster
Lelant

Martyn-West/Foster
Dawn

SATB
Alison EDGAR

Lyonesse

SATB, Foster, Carder, Miles
Ivor GURNEY (1890-1937)

Down by the Salley Gardens
All night under the moon
Severn meadows
Nine of the Clock

Partridge/Foster
Lights Out (five songs)
Wood/Jacobs
Jeffry WHITTON

Little Vagabond

Colwell/Foster
Laura SHUR

The smile

Colwell/Foster
Sarah RODGERS

Acacia tree

Colwell/Foster
Ernest J. MOERAN (1895-1950)

Rosefrail; Rahoon; Loveliest of trees
Griffel/Jacobs
Six Songs of Seumus O'Sullivan

Martyn-West/Foster
Georgina Colwell (sop)
Clare Griffel (mezzo)
Paul Martyn-West (ten)
Jonathan Wood (bar)
Ian Partridge (ten)
Nigel Foster and Peter Jacobs (piano)
Richard Carder (saxophone)
Patrick Miles (bass clarinet)
rec. 6 May 2003, St Cyprian's Church, London, English Poetry and Song Society and British Music Information Centre concert
DUNELM RECORDINGS DRD0200 [75.08]

The Wesley Birthday Song seems rather preoccupied with pomp not helped by the tremor in the baritone's voice and what seems to be a rather oppressive microphone placement. After a shaky start Griffel makes lovely melismatic hay with the Purcell If Music be ...

Sulyen Caradon, who has seven pieces on this CD, is Cornish. He studied with Peter Wishart and Michael Bowles (the latter a friend of Moeran who conducted the Dublin premiere of the cello concerto). He is working on an opera on the life of King Bladud as well as a Forest Symphony.

I did not know any of Caradon's music so I was delighted to encounter the subtle and poignantly coloured Clouds so beautifully rendered by Griffel. The song has the ring of Michael Head about it while The Dancer is full of Haydnesque piano activity and a vocal line that coasts close to Finzi. There are a number of solo piano pieces here. Caradon's Dorian Dirge (played by Jacobs) is rather tough by comparison with the Caradon songs and is relieved hardly at all by the ragtime colour that sometimes seeps to the surface. Paul Martyn-West is entirely admirable and is well represented by Lelant which possesses the same heartland occupied by Clouds. The SATB song Dawn sets de la Mare and works very well - smooth and gentle. O lovely England is another SATB song though it is rather turgid - like a hymn but without life or lift. The setting of Lascelles Abercrombie's poem Margaret's Song might almost be by Goossens or Van Dieren.

Alison Edgar has the full instrumental complement. It is a complete contrast with its neighbours. The 'usual' setting (Boughton and Finzi) of Hardy's Lyonesse is quick and eager. This is more of a reflective story telling without tension.

Ian Partridge's voice has darkened by a shade over the years but in this company he stands high for his calculated but pliant enunciation, musical intuition and absolute tonal steadiness. This Gurney group includes what is perhaps his best reading of the Salley Gardens. Only in the enchanted All night under the moon do the years seem to be telling. He is on top form in the delicious Nine of the Clock relishing every syllable and the smiling colour of the words 'sleepy starey Mary climbs down'.

I am sorry but I am not at all taken with the voice of Jonathan Wood. He suffers from tremulous note production and seems on the day of recording at least to have trouble and finds awkward Gurney's long demanding lines in the cycle Lights Out. But for this you might liken his voice to that of John Shirley-Quirk.

Griffel's three Moeran songs are equally well done - the watery Rahoon with its raindrop piano figuration works extremely well as does the lissom soliloquy of Loveliest of Trees showing that Gurney and Ireland cannot have the field entirely to themselves. The Seumus O'Sullivan Songs are amongst Moeran's most subtle works. Certainly they are more elusive than the Housman and Shakespeare cycle. They have the quality of Poulenc and are well sung by Paul Martyn-West. It is well past time that someone recorded a complete edition of the Moeran songs.

Georgina Colwell has been a faithful friend to British song for upwards of 20 years and there have been several CD recitals. She neatly catches the seriousness and the humour of Whitton's Little Vagabond to words by Blake. Shur's The Smile is another reflective and subtle essay considering the variety of smiles. The composer's decision to repeat certain verses works very well. Rodgers' setting of The Acacia Tree by Kathleen Raine is softly rippling and rhapsodic - rather like late Poulenc I thought and the spoken words at the end of the song work well.

The disc is extremely well presented. The design is good. Notes are fine and all the words are printed. I hope that there will be more of these productions.

Rob Barnett

see also review by Jonathan Woolf



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