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Love’s Voice - songs by Gurney, Ireland, Finzi and Venables
Ivor GURNEY (1890-1937)
On Wenlock Edge; Bread and Cherries; Down by the Salley Gardens
John IRELAND (1879-1962)
Friendship in Misfortune; The Three Ravens; The Trellis
Ian VENABLES (b.1955)
Love’s Voice (cycle)
Ivor GURNEY (1890-1937)
Ha’nacker Mill; Snow; Hawk and Buckle
Gerald FINZI (1901-1956)
Oh Fair to See
Ian VENABLES (b.1955)
Vitae Summa Brevis; Flying Crooked; At Midnight; The Hippo
John IRELAND (1879-1962)
The Land of Lost Content (cycle)
Nathan Vale (tenor)
Paul Plummer (piano)
rec. Potton Hall, Suffolk
SOMMCD063 [76.39]


“Pleasure and Melancholy, Lyrical Beauty and Desolation, are thus uniquely aligned in true English synthesis” (Peter Ackroyd: Albion – the origins of the English imagination, Vintage 2004, p.445). One could scarcely ask for a more representative selection of the essence of true Englishry in song and poetry than this disc, beautifully sung by Nathan Vale, a tenor of expressive range, accompanied by Paul Plummer.

Gurney, Ireland and Finzi all have their prescribed places in the literature of English music – and it greatly delights me, in view of what I know of, and have written of the music of Ian Venables that he should here take his place in this hierarchy of English song . The overall connection I think, is as much literary as musical. It is the poet who has been given voice here – the voice of love in its many aspects, a central theme that in its unity yet encompasses an astonishing variety of mood. This ranges from the quietly ecstatic “cosily bowered” of Ireland’s “The Trellis” to Blunden’s dead child “alone on that most wintry wild”; from the Uricon of Shrewsbury and the playing fields of Shropshire to the mirroring waters of the Venetian canals …

The recital opens with a wonderfully powerful setting by Gurney of “On Wenlock Edge” - a far cry from the atmospheric intensity of Vaughan Williams - sharing with John Ireland the love “of primal things”. This is not the music of folksong. Even Ireland’s “Three Ravens” is far more sophisticated than the rural Butterworth, or the deft handling of Britten. This is a probing to the deep wellsprings of cultural heritage which holds both darkness and light. Even the Venetian songs of Ian Venables - taking for text that little known and seldom set 19th century apostle of male beauty and platonic love, John Addington Symonds - are as English as The Yellow Book and the Grand Tour – truly “Only the Wanderer knows England’s Graces”. Such eclecticism is in itself an English trait.

Perhaps the most shadowy figure on the disc is that of Gerald Finzi, his “O Fair to See” a posthumous ‘anthology’ (not a cycle) which encompasses visionary moments of reflection. Yet in “Since We Loved” it also touches those particular cadences - à la Quilter - of the drawing room.

Seldom is much notice taken of the art work – and in this case it seems to me that the cover illustration is worthy of mention as being particularly well chosen.

The unity of the whole conception is further underlined by some curious internal associations - the whole quite ravishingly beautiful.

Colin Scott-Sutherland

see also Review by Jonathan Woolf


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