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Lullabyes and Goodbyes
Billy JOEL Lullaby (Goodnight, My Angel) [3:16]
Engelbert HUMPERDINCK Evening Prayer* [4:20]
Jacques OFFENBACH Barcarolle* [2:47]
Richard M. SHERMAN and Robert B. SHERMAN Hushbye Mountain* [2:58]
Johannes BRAHMS Wiegenlied* [2:51]
J.R.R. TOLKIEN/Donald SWANN Bilbo’s Last Song* [3:51]
George GERSHWIN Lullaby [3:41]
Traditional/SCOTT/KAIHAU Haere Rä [1:48]
Malcolm SARGENT Hawaiian Lullaby* [2:17]
Irving BERLIN Moonshine Lullaby [3:34]
Xavier MONTSALVATGE Cancion de Cuna para dormer a un Negrito* [2:47]
Traditional/CAMPBELL My Lagan Love [3:23]
Hugo WOLF Schlafendes Jesuskind* [3:18]
George SHEARING Lullaby of Birdland*[2:54]
Claudio MONTEVERDI Oblivion [3:31]
Daniel AUBER Discendi, O Sonno Vago [4:30]
CANTABILE Lullaby (Hush Macushla)* [2:24]
Franz SCHUBERT Nacht und Träume* [3:29]
J.R.R. TOLKIEN/Stephen OLIVER Bilbo’s Last Song* 3:02]
Richard M. SHERMAN & Robert B. SHERMAN Stay Awake [2:27]
Antonín DVOŘÁK Goin’ Home* [6:40]
John DANKWORTH Our Revels Now Are Ended* [2:55]
David CULLEN Counting Up My Toes [1:52]
Cantabile: Richard Bryan (counter-tenor); Robin Green (tenor); Mark Fleming (tenor); Michael Steffan (baritone) *with Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Recorded at Angel Studios, London, England, 24-26 February and 28 July 2004

Cantabile (www.cantabile.com) is an ensemble of four male voices, who, I believe, came together as a group while studying at Cambridge University in the 1980s. In the booklet note they say that this CD is "a project close to our hearts" on which they have worked for some time. In particular, they say, it offers them "the opportunity to do what we love most: to arrange and to sing repertoire from as wide a range of sources as possible." Certainly, as a glance at the track-listing readily shows, their programme is a very eclectic mix. Nearly all the music is arranged by them and they clearly excel at this aspect of their work just as much as they do at performing.

Some things are particularly enjoyable. For example, the melody that Donald Swann provides for Bilbo’s Last Song is quite lovely in its gentle nostalgia. I like John Dankworth’s setting of the same text too but it’s Swann’s that lodges more insidiously in the memory. I also think it perhaps catches the mood of the Hobbits in The Lord of the Rings more successfully. I also found Stay Awake to be a most engaging and soothing lullaby; I certainly wouldn’t want to drop off before I’d heard it through to the end!

There’s much that is beautiful here. The arrangement of My Lagan Love, for instance, is most affecting and it’s a lovely tune. Whether the arrangements of items that were originally composed for solo voice by the likes of Brahms, Wolf and Schubert, or the Humperdinck piece work quite so well I’m not entirely sure. I definitely wish they’d left the sublime Nacht und Träume alone, even though they sing it extremely well. Schubert’s miniature masterpiece is so perfect that it should just be left to speak for itself. I liked the gently lilting piece by Montsalvatge and also Haere Rä - better known in English as ‘Now is the Hour’ - complete with the sound of gently breaking waves in the background.

Perhaps it’s inevitable that most of the items are slow in tempo but the George Shearing piece is a lively toe-tapper. And the concluding David Cullen item is fun – I can take its degree of deliberate "twee-ness".

As to the singing itself well that’s all first class. The four voices blend beautifully and there isn’t a sour note to be heard. Diction is consistently crystal clear although texts and English translations, where appropriate, are provided. As you’d expect, the contribution of Malcolm Martineau is first rate.

Some may find the contents of this CD a little too heavily coated in sugar for their taste. However, I’d urge readers not to dismiss it out of hand on that account. There’s a great deal to enjoy here and I can imagine this being particularly restful and enjoyable late evening listening, perhaps with the fire burning gently and a glass of something warming at your elbow. Try this for something a bit different!

John Quinn



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