This isn’t a new
release. It’s been in the Claudio catalogues for well over a
decade now. Its resilience reflects well on a company that manages
to retain a comprehensive back catalogue. If only the majors
adopted such an accountant-free approach.
The programme is
self-explanatory, which is just as well because the notes are
almost entirely devoted to biographies of the two musicians.
Everyone will recognise, whether in English or in Welsh, at
least three or four songs – devotees naturally will be familiar
Huw Rhys-Evans has
a lyric tenor – quite high-lying and seemingly easy of production.
It was no great surprise to read that he’d sung Ferrando in
Così nor that he’d sung Tamino. Of late he’s perhaps
better known as a Rossinian of real distinction and as a Bach
Evangelist. This Claudio was almost certainly his first major
venture on disc. Back in 1991 we find his voice in youthful,
fresh estate and conveying the songs with generosity and sentiment.
He manages the very
high tessitura of the second verse of Ar hyd Y nos (All through
the night) with something approaching alacrity. When he
sings solo, as he does in the touching song Hiraeth (Yearning)
it’s with straight-as-a-die intonation and real bardic simplicity.
Such bardic affiliations are reinforced by what is one of the
most beautiful of all these settings, that of Claddu’r Bardd
O gariad (The burial of the lovesick bard) – one of the
Seven songs on poems in the Cywydd metre – and graced by mournful
harp arpeggios and a keening in the voice. Talking of harp arpeggios
brings us neatly to Ieuan Jones. His virtuosity is never in
doubt and fortunately he has solo opportunities to prove it.
I was especially taken by Merch Megan (Megan's daughter)
in which the world of the late nineteenth century French
operatic paraphrase is never too far away. His playing of that
staple Dafydd y garreg wen or David of the white rock
is penetratingly expressive and noble of utterance – devilishly
fast fingers as well. And hear how Rhys-Evans relishes, indeed
is lasciviously in love with, the lisping consonants of Hiraeth
am yr Haf (Yearning for Summer).
This was recorded
in a big acoustic with a long decay – but it’s only noticeable
when songs end and doesn’t interfere with one’s pleasure. Incidentally
Y deryn pur was often known as The Faithful Bird
but is here The Pure Bird - violinist Albert Sammons
arranged, published and recorded it during the First World War.
Not a lot of people know that.