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Roger QUILTER (1877-1953)
Songs: Drink to me only; Over the mountains; My lady Greensleeves*; Little moth*; Love calls through the Summers Night; If Love should pass me by*; The Rose of Trale*; Believe me; if all those endearing charms; Oh ! ‘tis sweet to think; Come Lady-day*; The Starlings*; To a harebell by a graveside*; It was a lover and his lass; Ye banks and braes; Charlie is my darling; Ca’ the yowes to the knows; Where go the boats*; Windy nights*; Summer sunset*; Le pauvre labourer*; L’amour pour moi*; Joli mois de Ma*i; Daisies after rain*; My heart adorned with thee*; The Passing bell*; Blossom time*; Daisies after rain* (duet version); Weep you no more*; I got a robe; ‘Tis Valentines Day*; What will you do; love ?*; The jolly miller; Barabara Allen; Three poor mariners; Since first I saw your face; The Ash Grove.
*première recording
Amanda Pitt (soprano); Joanne Thomas (mezzo); Philip Langridge (tenor); David Wilson-Johnson (baritone); David Owen Norris (piano)
recorded University of Southampton, 14-15 Feb, 31 Aug, 1 Sept 2004. DDD
NAXOS 8.557495 [77’53"]

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This is an important recording because it is presents part songs and ballads from Roger Quilter’s extensive output. Many of these are first recordings. This Naxos series of Quilter material will do much to restore the composer’s place in British musical history. It builds upon their acquisition of the Collins British music series and makes them a major player in the genre.

This disc doesn’t include the famous art songs, like Now sleeps the crimson petal. Instead it documents another aspect of English musical life : music for private performance.. The majority of songs here come from the Arnold Book of Old Songs, a collection of traditional songs compiled over twenty years, arranged for various friends. . It was dedicated to Arnold Vivian, Quilter’s adored nephew. He was executed for escaping from a prisoner of war camp in 1943. Quilter never got over the tragedy. .The "old songs" are well known melodies like Drink to me only and My Lady Greensleeves., where the tune remains constant, but the composer writes a varying accompaniment. Apparently Arnold had a high, light tenor voice : perhaps he sang some of these while his uncle played. The song, What will you do, love, was never published. Written when Arnold was sent to war, it is a starkly personal cry of pain, couched in Quilter’s characteristic reticent understatement. It is among the many songs recorded here for the first time.

The very simplicity of these self effacing arrangements lends itself to performance. No technical challenges here, allowing performers to relax and enjoy themselves. Even the fairly ambitious setting of Barbara Allen, with mounting crescendos between verses, supports the melody rather than overwhelms it. John Ireland, reading the scores for the BBC, considered some of these songs unworthy of Quilter at his best, and indeed a few do little but add to the limited part song repertoire. Nonetheless, taking these songs for what they are, in themselves, is an insight into another sensibility : the sensibility of essentially private, personal music making. I also found that this helped me understand the composer himself more intuitively, for he was an intensely private man whose inner self must have been hard to penetrate.

The performers on this recording are all well known. If anything, they have to "sing down" to the songs instead of aiming for their usual high art background. The result is charming and natural. Langridge and Pitt come over particularly well. Owen Norris negotiates Quilter’s subtle arrangements with aplomb. Here, he is playing a Bösendorfer. Notes are by Valerie Langfield, the leading authority on the composer. Her Roger Quilter: his life and music, The Boydell Press 2002 (ISBN 0-85115-871-4), is excellent, and highly recommended. Amazon UK £40 Amazon US Reviews

Anne Ozorio

see also review by Ian Lace April Bargain of the Month


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