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The Tend’rest Breast: Settings of women’s poetry.
Roger QUILTER (1877-1953) June; A song at parting; Wild cherry.
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941) Thy hand in mine; Where she lies asleep; Love went a-riding.
Ivor GURNEY (1890-1937) Seven Sappho songs.
Lennox BERKELEY (1903-1989) Epitaph of Timas (Three Greek songs);
John IRELAND (1879-1962) The advent & Hymn for a child (Two songs sacred and profane) and Love and friendship;
Alastair KING (dates not known) Nocturne; The moment; Spell to bring lost creatures home.
Madeleine DRING (1923-1977) Don’t play your sonata tonight, Mr. Humphries.
Montague PHILLIPS (1885-1969) When April laughs; Hush’d is my lute; Sing, joyous bird.
Georgina Colwell (soprano), Nigel Foster (piano)

This attractive release is built around the theme of English songs with lyrics by women writers. I am not sure whether this exercise proves anything, as with one – perhaps special – exception, all the composers are, or were, men. Many of the examples are infrequently encountered ... or at any rate were new to me. Most substantial are the Seven Sappho songs of Ivor Gurney, which date from 1919. While these are not the most striking or warmest-hearted Gurney it is good to have them and I know of no other recording. Sappho also inspired the first of Lennox Berkeley’s "Three Greek Songs". Of the Ireland songs, Love and friendship, is a marvellously sensitive response to Emily Brontë’s words. Alastair King is not a composer known to me, but he writes well and Spell to bring lost creatures home uses an attractive lilting melody. Incidentally, quite a number of these songs are light, almost ballad-like: Quilter, for instance, with the well-known June and the much less well known Wild cherry; Frank Bridge’s Love went a-riding, here - and happily so - not pushed along at such breakneck speed as sometimes happens; and the three Montague Phillips songs. He, like Haydn Wood, was married to a professional ballad singer. His songs are less popular than Wood’s and this may be because they are too superior as ballads but not quite good enough to be great art songs. However that may be, we can enjoy these three for what they are. It would be a stony heart which did not fall in love with this reading of the once-popular Sing, joyous bird - a wonderful climax to this disc. Also light in style is the Madeleine Dring, one of her cabaret songs and rather more extended than most of them. She wrote the words as well as the music of this and its humour and subtly (or maybe not so subtle) suggestive nuances will delight many.

Georgina Colwell produces an attractive tone with just an occasional hint of strain in the upper register. Her diction is excellent though the booklet prints the words of all the songs. She has also made a special study of English song, so she clearly loves the repertoire she tackles so affectionately. She has, in Nigel Foster, a responsive, sympathetic and accomplished piano accompanist and the recording is excellent. A note in the booklet apologises for extraneous noise at the recording venue, a hall in Walton-on-Thames, but I can honestly say I detected nothing amiss. It certainly did not interfere with my enjoyment of a very pleasant release indeed. Strongly recommended.

Philip L. Scowcroft

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