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Kathleen Ferrier: What is Life?
Chrisoph Willibald GLUCK  (1714-1787) What is Life? (Orfeo ed Euridice) [4’25”]
London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Malcolm Sargent Recorded 27 February 1946
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759) Art Thou Troubled? (Rodelinda) [4’40”]
London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Malcolm Sargent Recorded 27 February 1946
Spring is Coming (Ottone, Re di Germania) arr. Arthur Somervell [3’53”]
Gerald Moore (piano)
Recorded 20 April 1945
Come to Me, Soothing Sleep (Ottone, Re di Germania) arr. Arthur Somervell [4’19”]
Gerald Moore (piano)
Recorded 20 April 1945
O Thou that Tellest Good Tidings to Zion (Messiah) [5’36”]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult Recorded 8 October 1952
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Sound the Trumpet (Birthday Ode for Queen Mary II: Come, Ye Sons of Art Away) [2’00”]
Isobel Baillie (soprano); Gerald Moore (piano) Recorded 21 September 1945
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
I Would that My Love [2’45”]
Isobel Baillie (soprano); Gerald Moore (piano) Recorded 21 September 1945
O Rest in the Lord (Elijah) [3’38”]
Boyd Neel Orchestra/Boyd Neel
Recorded 2 September 1946
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Have Mercy, Lord, on Me (St. Matthew Passion) [7’16”]
Jacques Orchestra/Reginald Jacques Recorded 30 June 1947
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
An Die Musik, D547 [3’04”]
Der Musensohn, D764 [2’13”]
Phyllis Spurr (piano)
Recorded 14 February 1949
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Two Songs for Alto, Viola and Piano, Op. 91
1. Gestille Sehnsucht [5’11”]
2. Geistliches Wiegenlied [5’06”]
Max Gilbert (viola); Phyllis Spurr (piano)
Recorded 14 February 1949
Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Rückert Lieder
1. Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft [2’44”]
2. Um Mitternacht [6’22”]
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Bruno Walter Recorded in Vienna 20 May 1952
Roger QUILTER (1877-1953)
Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes [3’00”]
Phyllis Spurr (piano)
Recorded 10 December 1951
Trad. English arr. William Gillies WHITTAKER The Keel Row [1’42”]
Phyllis Spurr (piano)
Recorded 14 February 1949
Trad. Irish arr. Herbert HUGHES
Down By The Sally Gardens [3’08”]
Phyllis Spurr (piano)
Recorded
11 February 1949
Trad. English arr. Benjamin BRITTEN
O Waly, Waly [3’34”]
Phyllis Spurr (piano)
Recorded 10 December 1951
Trad. English arr. Herbert HUGHES
I Have a Bonnet Trimm’d with Blue [1’10”]
Phyllis Spurr (piano)
Recorded 10 December 1951
Trad. English arr. William Gillies WHITTAKER Blow the Wind Southerly [2’22”] Unaccompanied
All recordings made in London, except where otherwise indicated. ADD
ASV LIVING ERA CD AJA 5536 [79’45”]





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The contents of this CD give a very good overview of the brief recording career of Kathleen Ferrier (1912-1953). In fact the 21 tracks are all so well known as to make detailed comment almost superfluous.

Ferrier’s was not the most agile of voices. The tempo for the duet ‘I Would that My Love’is a trifle staid, for example. However, hear her in music that spins a long legato line, such as the two gorgeous Brahms songs or the Gluck item from which the album takes its name, and the incomparable richness of tone comes into its own. ‘Blow the Wind Southerly’ is just one of several tracks that have passed into recorded legend. Its inclusion here is as welcome as it is inevitable.

Several of her musical partnerships are celebrated here. The Mahler songs with Bruno Walter have attained classic status. We hear her also with Gerald Moore, doyen of accompanists. The name of Phyllis Spurr is nowhere near as well known as is Moore’s but judged by what we hear in this compilation she was a very reliable colleague with whom Ferrier enjoyed working. They combine to excellent effect - the Quilter song is a delight. Some of the tempi sound a bit pedestrian by the standards of today but the quality of the voice and the conviction of the singing overcome any such quibbles.

By and large the transfers, all but four from Decca recordings, have been successfully managed though there is a fleeting moment of distortion in the first of the Brahms songs (track 12). No texts or translations are provided. However, with the exception of the pairs of lieder by Brahms, Schubert and Mahler, all the items are sung in English so for English-speaking listeners this is probably not an issue.

For anyone who is coming afresh to Ferrier’s art I would say that this disc offers an ideal introduction to one of the most individual singing voices of the twentieth century. For collectors wishing to fill gaps in their collections this is an ideally inexpensive way to do so. In summary this disc offers eighty minutes of great enjoyment and is warmly recommended.

John Quinn



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