Roderick Williams is
well-known as a brilliant and passionate
advocate of English music. His recordings
on Naxos - not least his excellent Finzi
disc in the English Song Series review
and Vaughan Williams’ evocative Willow
- have all been of the greatest calibre,
with sensitive, expressive singing.
This fourteenth disc in the Naxos English
Song Series is no exception.
Williams’ voice is
warm, and gloriously resonant and assured,
with a gorgeous, rich, dark timbre.
He sings with confidence and with fantastic
enunciation – one really can hear every
opens the disc – presenting the singer
with a wonderful spring in his step,
and good plodding footsteps in the accompaniment.
In fact, throughout the disc Burnside
proves a most sympathetic and adroit
accompanist, for instance providing
supple, nimble and beautifully flowing
accompaniment in Let beauty awake.
Williams’ voice suits this repertoire
down to the ground – absolutely perfect
in Wither must I wander and suitably
tender in The infinite shining heavens.
He invests the opening of his exceptional
rendition of Youth and love with
magical tranquillity, incredible clarity
and searing beauty of voice that would
make it worth purchasing the disc for
this song alone! Bright is the ring
of words is spacious, bold
and well paced. In I have trod the
upward and the downward slope, a
barely-concealed sorrow and wisdom,
and a heaviness of age and experience
shine through Williams’ convincing expression
of the words.
The House of Life
follows, with delightfully poignant
and poetic renditions of Love–sight,
Love’s Last Gift and Silent
Noon (the latter song with perfect
vibrato), and an exceptionally lyrical
and beautiful Love’s Minstrels.
Linden Lea is
always a challenge, given the huge number
of excellent – and classic – versions.
Yet Williams certainly holds his own
here. He takes the song at a good pace
and is remarkably relaxed and unconcerned,
with the result that the song flows
naturally, without sounding at all rushed
or forced. There are no histrionics,
no misplaced passions, just a refreshing
sense of space and ease - "Let
other folk", for example, is merely
confident, joyful and free, and not
belted out as with some singers.
The lovely Four
Poems by Fredegond Shove are - The
Water Mill apart - generally less
well-known, but their neglect in favour
of other works is unjustified. Williams
captures the ghostly mood of Motion
and Stillness perfectly, creating
a mesmeric stillness at the end of the
song. The lovely Four Nights
is sensitively sung, and The New
Ghost is performed with haunting
intensity, Williams’ resonant voice
full of melancholic urgency.
I was tremendously
impressed by this disc, which exceeded
the very high expectations I had entertained.
The singing is outstanding – deeply
intelligent, powerful and highly-charged.
Some may find that Williams employs
a little too much vibrato in the songs
for their taste. This is not, however,
a concern that troubles me in the slightest.
The accompaniment is of the highest
standard, and the songs are given astoundingly
beautiful performances. I cannot recommend
this disc highly enough.
See also review
by Anne Ozorio (December Bargain
of the Month)