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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Paul ROBESON (1898 - 1976) Spirituals
Original 1925 - 1936 Recordings.
*Duets with Lawrence Brown
Git on Board, Li’l Children - Dere’s No Hidin’ Place Down Dere [2’16]
(arr. Lawrence Brown). Recorded September 1928, Hayes, Middx MEDLEY: Intro - Roll de Ole Chariot (arr. Ruthland Clapham, Paul Robeson) - Mary Had a Baby, Yes, Lord (arr. Jackson) - Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (arr. Lawrence Brown) - Heav’n, Heav’n (I Got a Robe) (arr. Henry Burleigh) [4’05]. With Ruthland Clapham, piano, and the Mayfair Orchestra, conducted by Ray Noble . Recorded September 1933, London
Joshua Fit de Battle ob Jericho* (arr. Lawrence Brown) [1’55]
Recorded July 1925, Camden, New Jersey
Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child (arr. Lawrence Brown) [2’58]
Recorded January 1926, Camden, New Jersey
Nobody Knows de Trouble I’ve Seen (arr. Lawrence Brown) [3’01]
Recorded January 1926, Camden, New Jersey
Hear de Lam’s a-Cryin’* (arr. Lawrence Brown) [2’36]
Recorded March 1927, New York
Ezekiel Saw de Wheel* (arr. Lawrence Brown) [2’00]
Recorded March 1927, New York
I’m Goin’ to Tell God All o’ My Troubles (arr. Lawrence Brown) [2’34]
Recorded May, 1927, New York
I Got a Home in Dat Rock (arr. Lawrence Brown) [2’20]
Recorded May 1927, New York
Deep River (arr. Henry Burleigh) [2’23]
Recorded May 1927, New York
Witness* (arr. Lawrence Brown) [2’28]
Recorded May 1927, New York
Scandalize My Name (arr. Henry Burleigh) [2’05]
Recorded June 1928, Hayes, Middx
Sinner, Please Doan’ Let Dis Harves’ Pass (arr. Henry Burleigh) [2’03]
Recorded June 1928, Hayes, Middx
Weepin’ Mary - I Want to be Ready (arr. Henry Burleigh) [3’09]
Recorded September1928, London
My Lord, What a Mornin’ (arr. Henry Burleigh) [2’50]
Recorded September 1928, London
Hail de Crown (arr. Avery Robinson) [2’08]
Recorded February 1930, London
Exhortation (Will Marion Cook) [2’11]
Recorded February 1930, London
I Stood on de Ribber - Peter, Go Ring dem Bells (arr. Henry Burleigh) [2’53]
Recorded February 1930, London
Go Down, Moses (arr. Henry Burleigh) [2’04]
Recorded February 1930, London
Steal Away (arr.Lawrence Brown) [3.00]
With Ruthland Clapham, piano. Recorded December 1933, London
De Ole Ark’s a-Moverin’ (arr. Johnson) [1’02]
Recorded May 1936, London
Nearer, My God, to Thee (Carey) [4’13]
With Herbert Dawson at the Kingsway Hall Organ
Recorded October 1932
With Lawrence Brown at the piano, except where indicated
NAXOS GOSPEL LEGENDS 8.120638 [60’26]

If ever there was a gospel legend, it had to be Paul Robeson. This disc took me back to childhood, as his recordings were frequently played on radio programmes, and my mother, particularly, was enthralled by him. The son of a Presbyterian minister, he was a hard working intelligent man who graduated in Law from Rutger’s University in 1919, no mean achievement then. He had always been attracted to drama, and appeared on Broadway and in London in the early 1920s, and made his screen debut in 1924, in a silent film. He began his career as a recitalist with Lawrence Brown in 1925 to immediate acclaim, and by 1928 was domiciled in London. Here he appeared in the premiere of Show Boat by Jerome Kern, later taking part in the New York revival in 1932. In 1935, his screen career combined both acting and singing in Sanders of the River from the novel by Edgar Wallace, set and filmed in Africa. It was also in the 1930s when, in common with many people at this time, and after a visit to Russia in 1934, he became fervently interested in communism, and joined the party. This led to his investigation in the United States in 1950 for "Un-American activities" and withdrawal of his United States passport. This ruling was eventually revoked, but it lead to his virtual retirement from public life.

The gospel songs here are mostly well known, and very well arranged by the various arrangers, particularly Lawrence Brown who is heard in duets with Robeson. There is no doubt about the quality of Robeson’s voice with a dark-hued richness which is hard to match nowadays. I suppose the nearest we have is Willard White. A complete programme of spirituals becomes something of a chore, but interest is never lacking. The "interjections"of Lawrence Brown are diverting, but cetainly his voice does not have the quality of his partner’s, even though one could term him a tenor. The remarkable work of course is in the transferring of these items from the original matrices, mostly HMV but some Victor (those recorded in Camden or New York) and this has been accomplished most successfully. True there is quite a marked hiss throughout, but this in no way detracts from one’s attention to the music nor the quality of the voice. Even the piano tone rings true and without tinniness or clangour.

If this repertoire is to your taste, the disc deserves a warm welcome and hearty recommendation.

John Portwood



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