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My Own Country
Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900)

Orpheus with his lute [3:13]; Edward Gray [4:35]
Hubert PARRY (1848-1918)

Weep you no more [2:27]; Willow, willow, willow [2:35]
Arr. Roger QUILTER (1877-1953)

Over the mountains [2:08]; Drink to me only [2:34]
George DYSON (1883-1964)

A poet's hymn [3:49]; Song of the Cyclops [2:08]
Cecil GIBBS (1889-1960)

The stranger [2:34]; Five eyes [1:13]
Ivor GURNEY (1890-1937)

Down by the Salley Gardens [2:19]; Snow [2:30]
Herbert HOWELLS (1892-1983)

0, my deir hert [2:01]; King David [4:27]
Peter WARLOCK (1894-1930)

My own country [2:26]; Rest, sweet nymphs [2:13]
Michael HEAD (1900-1976)

Tewkesbury Road [2:41]; Lavender Pond [3:42]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-76)

Tom Bowling [4:20]; The choirmaster's burial [4:10]
Harry Sever (treble), Robert Bottone (piano)
rec. New Hall, Winchester College, Hampshire, England, January 2005. DDD
HERALD HAVPCD 311 [59:57]


Here we have a disc that falls between a recital programme chosen to display the abilities of the singer or a collection including rarities from lesser-heard composers. The soloist was Head Chorister at Winchester College where he still studies and has appeared in Songs of Praise and Sunday Half Hour. The choice of songs by Sullivan, Parry, Gibbs and Gurney is a good one for they ideally match the vocal capabilities of the voice and are under-represented in the gramophone catalogue. It's always difficult to please all listeners but the Quilter folksong arrangements from the Arnold Book of Old Songs, the Warlock works, Gibbs' Five Eyes, and Howells’ King David are already well represented. Perhaps consideration of providing some melodious rarities of Benedict, Stanford or Wood might have provided an added attraction for the listener.

Harry Sever has a light treble voice best suited to the higher octaves, where he soars effortlessly. He provides good dynamics and gives an excellent vibrato on sustained high notes. I should have enjoyed hearing more use of vibrato throughout since its control is so nicely handled and pleasant to the ear. Much tenderness of expression and much feeling is put into the lovely flowing phrases of the Gurney numbers, Rest, sweet nymph and Lavender Pond. It is often the case that elegant music flows from the pen of a composer who undergoes suffering. Gurney in particular had a rough time in World War I and went back to Gloucestershire shell-shocked. I'm not sure when these compositions were written but suspect it was after the war. Whether or not the songs were ones the soloist enjoyed singing or were recommendations by others I don't know, but his weakness is only exposed in Dyson's Song of the Cyclops and Head's Tewkesbury Road where a considerable lack of strength in the lower octaves is evident. Songs incorporating low notes outside his compass might have been avoided. My own country, a lovely tune might have been improved by transposing. Despite this, Harry Sever may well be destined for high achievements as a vocalist.

The accompaniment by Robert Bottone is particularly competent. He studied with Fanny Waterman - of Leeds Piano competition fame - and Donald Hunt. However, the fireworks found in Dyson's Song of the Cyclops, so well expressed, takes the ear off the singer completely at one point and makes me wonder if the work was more fun to play than to sing. I was amused to find a possible hidden joke in the title of the last item that may have some hidden meaning to the performers. With this thought put aside, I find this last piece to be monotonous and uninspired Britten.

The acoustic for the accompaniment is sensible, yet dry and somewhat unflattering for the singer. At places in forte passages, the piano tends to drown the voice and sensitivity of balance in editing could have improved the recording.

The notes – in English - contain all lyrics, but sadly no notes on the composers' backgrounds.

Raymond J Walker


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