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Songs for Tenor and Guitar
John DOWLAND (1563-1626)

Come, heavy Sleep [2:19]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)

Nocturnal after John Dowland: Reflections on ‘Come, heavy Sleep’, Op.70: Musingly – Very agitated – Restless – Uneasy – March-like – Dreaming – Gently Rocking – Passacaglia [19:32]

Nicholas MAW (b. 1935)

Sis Interiors [17:44]
To Life, Allegramente [1:31]
Neutral Tones. Senza misura – Andantino, un poco inquieto [3:35]
At Tea. Allegreto con moto [2 :10]
In Tenebris. Lento [5:25]
I Look into My Glass. Tempo rubato, senza misura [2:09]
Inscriptions for a Peal of Eight Bell: Con brio. L’ostresso tempo – Poco piu con gravita – Tempo I, leggiero – Molto pesante – Grazioso – Tempo I – Molto con brio [2:44]
Nicholas MAW (b.1935)

Music of Memory [21:22]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)

Songs from the Chinese, Op. 58 [10:06]
The Big Chariot. Heavy [2:02]
The Old Lute. Slow and remote – Quick [2:19]
The Autumn Wind. Very quick [1:30]
The Herd-Boy. Freely [1:22]
Depression. Very slow and tired. [1:24]
Dance Song. Gay [1:19]
John DOWLAND (1563-1626)

Weepe you no more, sad fountaines From Third and Last Booke of Songs or Ayres [2:46]
Philip Langridge, tenor
Stephen Marchionda, guitar
Recorded at The Wathen Hall, St Paul's School, London 21-23 February 2003 DDD
CHANDOS CHAN 10305 [74:19] 


 

A brilliantly programmed disc from Chandos brings together works for tenor and guitar by Britten and Maw, framed by songs from Dowland’s Bookes of Songs and Ayres.

The opening song, Come Heavy Sleep, atmospherically performed by Philip Langridge and Stephen Marchionda, is the basis for the second work on the disc – Britten’s Nocturnal, a work for solo guitar originally written for Julian Bream in 1963. It is particularly fitting that Marchionda is the artist on this disc as Bream’s pupil, and he gives a sympathetic and effective performance of this brilliant work. Two Nicholas Maw premières follow – Six Interiors, and Music of Memory. Six Interiors sets some of Hardy’s exceptional poems (including, to my utmost delight, an old favourite – I look into my mirror, an absolute masterpiece of human perception and understanding). Maw sets powerful words to powerful music, and Langridge could have no rival in being exactly the right artist to perform these. His voice is not a pretty voice - it is a dramatic voice. Flexible and atmospheric, his slightly harsh, dark and almost ghostly tone is perfect for these songs, and he and Marchionda give an amazing performance. Just listen to how, in the song At Tea, Langridge so adroitly characterises the complicated situation and complex reactions of the characters with consummate stresses, emphases and pauses. One can hear his voice smiling on the word "smiling" and knows that this is not a smile of genuine happiness; one can hear the polite compliments of the visiting lady simpering, and one can hear the longing in the word "yearningly" in some excellent word-painting. My only reservation about these songs is that, whilst fairly Brittenesque, they do not seem to make as much musical sense or have the direction that Britten’s works do.

Music of Memory is another good work, and well performed. It was composed in 1989 and is, as the composer describes it, "a somewhat freely organised set of variations". Certainly fantasia-like, it contains some passages of great beauty, many of which hark back to Dowland and his contemporaries, while themes by Mendelssohn drift in and out of the piece, never clearly laid out.

In Britten’s Songs from the Chinese, Langridge gets the mixture of seriousness and sardonic irony excellently. The disc concludes aptly with Dowland’s Weepe you no more, sad fountains.

I love the symmetry of this disc, and how beautifully it has been programmed, with three composers who have all influenced each other, and works that are inter-linked both musically and in terms of the major themes of age, time, death, and the sorrows of world. An outstanding disc!

Em Marshall



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