Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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Roger QUILTER (1877-1953)
It was a lover and his lass
Take O take those lips away
O mistress mine
How should I your true love know
Orpheus with his lute
Hark hark the lark
Ca' the yowes to the knowes
Charlie is my darling
Ye banks and braes
I arise from dreams of thee
Music when soft voices die
Love's philosophy
Spring is at the door
Passing dreams
Autumn evening
An old carol
Three pastoral songs
Go lovely rose
A last year's rose
Amaryllis at the fountain
I dare not ask a kiss
Now sleeps the crimson petal
To Julia
Love calls through the summer night

Lisa Milne (sop)
Anthony Rolfe Johnson (ten)
Graham Johnson (piano)
The Duke Quartet
rec.. 29-30 Sept 1 Oct 1997, All Saints Church, East Finchley, London. DDD
NAXOS 8.557116 [72.19]

Naxos have made good on their commitment to reissue the Collins English song series. Collectors of recordings of English song are doing well out of this. The virtues of the Collins series stood high when first issued. This made it all the more regrettable when the firm collapsed back in 2000. Gradually however their recordings have been licensed out to Regis, NMC and Naxos. This is the fifth song volume to appear from Naxos. How many more to come? I seem to remember a Gurney volume as well? The recordings are still excellent as are the performances. The documentation is good and all the words are printed; on top of which the selection is generous with 33 songs in all including every one of the Quilter 'classics' as well as lesser known gems such as It was a lover and Ca’ the yowes.

Rolfe Johnson, Lisa Milne (whose singing of Loch Lomond at the Scottish Proms in September 2003 made such an enchanting impression by its lilt, steadiness and subtle strength) and Johnson manage to transcend the magnetic pull of gentility that afflicts some of these songs. It was a lover and his lass avoids this by more than a hair's breadth. Take O take and O mistress mine are the equal of Gurney in the Five Elizas cycle though Orpheus is not as sprightly as the Gurney. Hark hark the Lark has a quicker life to it but is still genteel. I arise from dreams of thee is disappointingly pallid and the problem rests with the song not these sympathetic interpreters. The vigorous and floodingly liquid writing in Love's Philosophy is well put across but the years have not treated this song kindly. On the other hand Passing Dreams, to the famous words "They are not long", is superb. I sing of a maiden is a text much set during the extended English musical renaissance but here, under the title of An old carol, is rather done in by the suffocating gentility of it all. Go Lovely Rose, I dare not ask and A last year's rose are too submissive to convention.

Milne in How should I is attractively plaintive and Delian. She is matchlessly tender in Ca’ the yowes, Music when soft voices die and in Ye banks and braes. There is sprightliness in Charlie is my darling. How freshly wonderful are the Three Pastoral Songs (setting Celtic-ecstatic poems by Joseph Campbell (1879-1944)) for voice with piano trio. These include I will go with my father a ploughing which is every bit as good as the slightly more famous Gurney setting though Gurney would never be as comfortable as some of these songs suggest Quilter was. Cherry Valley, the second song, is an ecstatic little watercolour. The final I wish, I wish is sweetly irresistible; Quilter skilfully avoiding the dangers of twee and kitsch. These songs have real life bursting the bounds set by crinoline and Victorian sensibility. Amaryllis falls victim to salon charm even allowing for the operatic expostulations bursting the bonds. Now sleeps is done to perfection and this does travel well.

To Julia is a cycle setting various delectable Herrick love poems for voice with piano quintet. Rolfe Johnson has just the right lilting quality. The accompaniment is as imaginative as that for Gurney's two Housman cycles. Highlights here include the tender To Daisies with masterful honeyed sepia touches in the string quartet parts, the whole full of vitality. The Night Pieces are rather Stanfordian. The artists conjure up a wonderful slowness in Dew sat on Julia's hair. There is also the Delian artistry of Cherry Ripe. This is a superb sequence of songs. We should hear the complete cycle more often perhaps as a contrast to RVW's identically specified On Wenlock Edge.

Love calls through the summer night is to words by Rodney Bennett (1890-1948), the father of the composer Richard Rodney Bennett. There is a touch of Ivor Novello and pleasant kitsch in this duet extracted from Quilter's 1936 opera Julia ... also known as Rosmé. Perhaps someone will give us the whole opera. We could do with a series of such works including Dunhill's Tantivy Towers as well as Holbrooke's Pierrot and Pierrette. By the way, Novello was a contemporary of Gurney's at the RCM.

This disc is a very considerable bargain for anyone who would like a substantial Quilter anthology superbly presented and performed ... and all at entry level price.

Rob Barnett

see also review by Michael Cookson


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