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The Art of English Song
CD 1

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872–1958)
Silent noon (Rossetti) [3:36]
Linden Lea (Barnes) [2:17]
Thomas Frederick DUNHILL (1877–1946)
The cloths of heaven (Yeats) [2:07]
Bryn Terfel (bass-baritone), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Henry PURCELL (1659–1695)
Fairest isle (from King Arthur) (Dryden) [2:31]
Barbara Bonney (soprano)
The Academy of Ancient Music/Christopher Hogwood
John DOWLAND (1563–1626)
If my complaints could passions move (from First Booke of Songs) [4:38]
Barbara Bonney (soprano), Jacob Heringman (lute)
John WILBYE (1574–1638)
Of joys and pleasing pains (from First Set of English Madrigals) [2:24]
Orlando GIBBONS (1583–1625)
Dainty fine bird (from Madrigals and Motets 1612) [1:44]
The Consort of Musicke/Anthony Rooley
John DOWLAND
In darkness let me dwell [4:16]
Andreas Scholl (counter-tenor), Edin Karamazov (lute)
Far from triumphing court [5:07]
Andreas Scholl (counter-tenor)
Edin Karamazov (lute), Christophe Coin (bass viol)
Ivor GURNEY (1890–1937)
Sleep (from Five Elizabethan Songs) (Fletcher) [3:08]
Peter WARLOCK (1894–1930)
Captain Stratton’s fancy (Masefield) [1:54]
Haydn WOOD (1882–1959)
A brown bird singing (Barrie) [2:45]
James MOLLOY (1839–1909)
Love’s old sweet song (Bingham) [4:46]
Felicity Palmer (soprano), John Constable (piano)
Percy GRAINGER (1882–1961)
The sprig of thyme [2:33]
The pretty maid milkin’ her cow [1:17]
Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo), Bengt Forsberg (piano)
Trad. (arr. Britten)
Early one morning [2:57]
The foggy foggy dew [2:27]
Peter Pears (tenor), Benjamin Britten (piano)
George BUTTERWORTH (1885–1916)
Loveliest of trees (from 6 Songs from A Shropshire Lad) (Housman) [2:40]
Bredon Hill (from Bredon Hill and Other Songs) [4:44]
John IRELAND (1879–1962)
I must go down to the seas again (Masefield) [2:20]
Bryn Terfel (bass-baritone), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Thomas CAMPION (1567–1620)
Come let us sound [3:02]
Emma Kirkby (soprano), Anthony Rooley (lute)
Thomas MORLEY (1557–1602)
It was a lover and his lass [2:24]
Peter Pears (tenor), Benjamin Britten (piano)
Thomas ARNE (1710–1778)
The soldier tir’d (from Artaxerxes) [4:04}
George Frideric HANDEL (1685–1759)
Let the bright seraphim (from Samson) [5:52]
Joan Sutherland (soprano), Harry Dilley (trumpet)
Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden/Francesco Molinari-Pradelli
CD 2

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS
The vagabond (from Songs of Travel) (Stevenson) [3:14]
Gerald FINZI (1901–1956)
O mistress mine (from Let us garlands bring) (Shakespeare) [2:11]
Bryn Terfel (bass-baritone), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Henry PURCELL (arr. Britten)
The Blessed Virgin’s expostulation [8:29]
Kiri Te Kanawa (soprano), Roger Vignoles (piano)
trad. (arr. Leon)
I am a poor wayfaring stranger [4:45]º
Trad.
The salley gardens (Yeats) [2:15]
Andreas Scholl (countertenor), Edin Karamazov (lute)º
Stacey Shames (harp), Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Henry PURCELL
If music be the food of love (Heveningham) [2:07]
Barbara Bonney (soprano)
The Academy of Ancient Music/Christopher Hogwood
Anon. (arr. Britten)
The Lincolnshire poacher [2:03]
Peter Pears (tenor), Benjamin Britten (piano)
Orlando GIBBONS (1583–1625)
The silver swan (from Madrigals and Motets 1612) [1:17]
The Consort of Musicke/Anthony Rooley
Anon. (arr. Britten)
The plough boy [2:04]
Peter Pears (tenor), Benjamin Britten (piano)
Henry ECCLES (1675?–1735?)
I burn, my brain consumes to ashes [3:44]º
Henry PURCELL
I’ll sail upon the dog-star (D’Urfey) [1:33]
Catherine Bott (soprano), David Roblou (harpsichord)
Paula Chateauneuf (lute), Anthony Pleeth (cello)º
trad. (arr. Leon)
My love is like a red, red rose (Burns) [3:50]
I will give my love an apple [2:35]
Andreas Scholl (countertenor), Edin Karamazov (lute(
Stacey Shames (harp), Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
George Frideric HANDEL
O had I Jubal’s lyre (from Joshua) [2:33]
Janet Baker (mezzo), English Chamber Orchestra/Raymond Leppard
Roger QUILTER (1877–1953)
O mistress mine (from Three Shakespeare Songs) (Shakespeare) [1:38]
Now sleeps the crimson petal (from Three Songs) (Tennyson) [2:18]
Hubert PARRY (1848–1918)
Love is a bable (trad.) [1:41]
Bryn Terfel (bass-baritone), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Anon. (arr. Roberton)
The fidgety bairn [2:49]
Kathleen Ferrier (contralto), John Newmark (piano)
Anon. (arr. Hughes)
The stuttering lovers [1:42]
Kathleen Ferrier (contralto), Phyllis Spurr (piano)
Anon. (arr. Whittaker)
Blow the wind southerly [2:22]
Kathleen Ferrier (contralto)
Hubert PARRY
Blow, blow, thou winter wind (Shakespeare) [1:58]
Robert Tear (tenor), Philip Ledger (piano)
Henry PURCELL
Music for a while (from Oedipus) (Dryden, Lee) [2:51]
Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo), Jory Vinikour (harpsichord)
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS
In dreams (from Songs of Travel) (Stevenson) [2:57]
George BUTTERWORTH
On the idle hill of summer (from Bredon Hill and Other Songs) (Housman) [3:08]
Bryn Terfel (bass-baritone), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Trad. (arr. Leon)
I loved a lass [3:37]
Andreas Scholl (countertenor), Edin Karamazov (lute)
Stacey Shames (harp), Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Henry PURCELL
Thy hand, Belinda … When I am laid in earth (from Dido and Aeneas) (Tate) [4:46]
Barbara Bonney (soprano)
The Academy of Ancient Music/Christopher Hogwood
rec. 1949–2004
DECCA 476 5296 [75:33 + 74:27]
 


What is the target group for a compilation like this? Not the experienced collector, surely, who will have much of this repertoire already, in some cases at least the very discs from which this music has been culled. They will also be knowledgeable enough to know music history and be familiar with the styles of the different epochs and composers.
 
I can think of two other categories. First the casual listener who finds this disc in the record store and reacts: “Oh, how nice! ‘The art of English Song’. Vaughan Williams, Handel, Purcell – old one, isn’t he? – and look! Bryn Terfel, von Otter, Ferrier – she was famous long ago, I’ve heard – and Scholl, he sang at Last Night of the Proms on TV. I’ll try it! And it’s quite inexpensive.” This group of listeners will probably be well satisfied with the hotchpotch arranging of the items. Nice mix of different styles and voices. They will hopefully recognise some of the tunes and discover others that may well be companions for the future.
 
The other group is the probably young or at least newly converted with a serious interest and longing to learn. They will presumably be confused by the mix and the lack of information about in what epoch which song was written. George Hall’s short essay gives a general overview but these persons want something more specific. I have provided some help by giving the birth- and death-years for the composers in the heading, but there should also have been some guidance through the programme and preferably all the music presented in chronological order. I know that this still poses some problems, since there are a number of Trad or Anon, which we cannot date, unless we regard Early one morning as mid-19th century, when Britten wrote the arrangement. If there are some other guiding lines behind the compilation it would have been good to have them specified.
 
Apart from this – and I think this is a serious complaint that unfortunately can be directed against many similar compilations – there is a lot of wonderful music and wonderful performances here. As a matter of fact Decca have picked and chosen among the very best specimens in their vast catalogue and there isn’t a single item that doesn’t have at least something to recommend it.
 
Several songs are taken from Bryn Terfel’s DG disc The Vagabond, which I believe is one of the best recordings of English songs ever issued. He is in such control of his voice and his musical expressions. His pithy bass-baritone seems able to expand forever down to that most ravishing pianissimo. And every phrase is so alive. On the male side we also have Peter Pears’ plaintive tones, which do not appeal to everyone, but are instantly recognisable. It was a lover and his lass was on the legendary LP of Elizabethan songs with Julian Bream, issued in 1960, which I have owned for nearly forty years. Still, when I listen to some of those songs in more recent recordings it is Pears’ voice I hear. Andreas Scholl’s characteristic warm and vibrant counter-tenor is also highly attractive, worlds apart from the white, androgynous tones of many British singers. Among the ladies Barbara Bonney’s and Emma Kirkby’s bell-like purity stands out, while superstars like Joan Sutherland and Kiri Te Kanawa are on their best behaviour, even though one has to question whether arias from operas and oratorios really belong in a collection of English song. The oldest singer here, apart from Pears, Kathleen Ferrier, is represented by three classic songs. Especially the unaccompanied Blow the wind southerly is breathtakingly beautiful, but I know that there are people who can’t quite fathom the deep contralto voice. “Pebbles in the mouth” seems to be the problem. For those Anne Sofie von Otter’s crystal clear mezzo is a better alternative. She sings gloriously of course, a mite too sophisticated, maybe, in the Grainger songs. As an opposite to all this solo singing we are also granted a couple of concerted pieces with the ever-inspiring and inspired Consort of Musicke.
 
So, no complaints concerning the quality of the performances, and the choice of songs is also excellent, with a number of well-known standards but also a few that may be new even to the jaded collector. That said, as programme building this set this could be vastly improved.
 
A last complaint: someone at Decca has managed to produce a credits page that is practically illegible. Instead of, for each item in the track list, giving recording dates, venues, producers, engineers and publishers, the someone in question has listed separately all the publishing years, the producers (and not in alphabetical order), engineers (ditto) and recording locations (lo and behold, mainly chronologically, but not quite). I have met this practice in some other compilations and I wonder: to whose benefit?
 
Two-and-a-half hours of wonderful songs, wonderfully performed but presented without any discernible logic. For those who don’t bother about such matters this is a good, and cheap, way of getting a cross-section of the best of English songs.
 
Göran Forsling
 

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