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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Dunelm Records

The Great War
ANON I want to go home [1:03]
Ivor GURNEY (1890-1937)

The Dying Patriot (J E Flecker) [3:06]
Everyone Sang (S Sassoon) [1:36]
If We Return (F W Harvey) [1:57]
In Flanders (F W Harvey) [2:56]
In Memoriam (E Thomas) [1:03]
I Heard a Soldier (H Trench) [2:41]
Geraint LEWIS (b.1958)

It’s Not Going to Happen Again [2:36]
The Treasure [2:34]
Clouds [2:45]
Song [1:54]
Geoffrey KIMPTON

Winter Warfare (E Rickwood) [1:56]
Margaret WEGENER

The Cenotaph (C Mew) [3:37]
John R WILLIAMSON

Before the Battle (S Sassoon) [2:28]
I Stood with the Dead (S Sassoon) [3:46]
Duncan REID

I Did Not Lose My Heart (A E Housman0 [2:09]
Dennis WICKENS

Attack (S Sassoon) [5:14]
Elaine HUGH-JONES

The End (W Owen) [3:09]
John IRELAND (1879-1962)

The Soldier (R Brooke) [2:14]
Blind (E T Cooper) [1:24]
The Cost (E T Cooper) [1:18]
The Dead (R Brooke) [2:19]
Jerome KERN (1885-1945)

They Didn’t Believe Me [1:32]
Jeremy Huw Williams (baritone), Nigel Foster (piano)
Tracks 1-18 and 23 recorded 13th November 2004 at the United  Reform Church, Henleaze, Bristol. Tracks 19-22 recorded on 17th October 1993 at St. Geogre’s, Brandon Hill, Bristol DDD
DUNELM DRD0239 [55:37]

 

The main problem with this Dunelm disc of songs and poems from the Great War is the sound. The disc has been compiled from two live recordings and, regrettably, this shows rather badly although apart from some clearing of throat before the first piece, the audience are remarkably well-behaved. The sound, however, is terribly muffled and unclear, although this is not surprising when one reads that most of the tracks were recorded on cassette tape and mini-disc and then transferred!

The opening unison song I want to go home is beleaguered by the problems that face church hymns countrywide: audience dragging behind, audience occasionally out of tune, ladies who clearly fancy themselves as sopranos warbling out above their fellow members of the audience and such like.

Jeremy Huw Williams sings the solo tracks on the disc, and does so extremely well. As a general rule, the Gurney songs are invested with the right kind of emotion – passion bubbling just under the surface, but never over the top. His voice is a pleasant one, rich, deep and sophisticated, and he captures the spirit of the songs very well in his emphases and word-painting.

My only quibbles with the Gurney set relate to In Flanders. He does not bring enough restraint and control to the song (such as the "rain" of "sun or rain"). More use should have been made of the dramatic pause, and the result is not as effective or as powerful as it should be. This is one of those songs that has the power to strike the listener right through the heart, choke them with freezing emotion in the very first few lines – but here it is devoid of the capacity to move, which is a great pity.

The Geraint Lewis songs are very good if a little derivative – very traditional in sound, they seem to shy away from any hint of modernity. A little more of the piano wouldn’t go amiss – the balance is very much biased towards the singer. The new songs from the English Poetry and Song Society competition are fairly impressive and bode well for the future of English solo song, I felt. Geoffrey Kimpton’s Winter Warfare is quite innovative especially in the piano accompaniment, and John Williamson’s Before the Battle and I stood with the Dead are effective and powerful. Duncan Reid’s I did not Lose my Heart combines a traditional sound-world with the very occasional twist in the piano, which works well, and Attack by Dennis Wickens is most atmospheric. Both the Margaret Wegener and Hugh-Jones songs are also good. The high standard of singing brings out the best in all of these pieces.

Unfortunately, the beautiful John Ireland songs that follow are even worse in terms of sound quality. These were recorded "live" on cassette tape in 1993 and the sound detracts significantly from the performance – all these songs are expertly performed by Jeremy Huw Williams, full of vivacity and soul. The disc concludes with another unison song – Kern’s They Didn’t Believe Me, which is dogged by the same rather foreseeable problems as the first track.

The main faults I can find are ones that have been either created or exacerbated by the venue and recording – the words are not terribly clear as a result of the muffled sound, and in places Huw Williams seems to be producing far too much vibrato – a factor that is probably exaggerated by the acoustic.

I would have no hesitation in recommending this disc were it better produced – if the sound was half-decent, and the sleeve-notes and back more professional and less like a good home-production - see, for example, the reference to ‘Carl Mielsen’s’ (who’s he?) Third Symphony in the sleeve-notes. It is otherwise a beautifully programmed and extremely well performed disc, with some excellent singing and accomplished and sympathetic accompaniment from Nigel Foster.

Em Marshall



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