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Trevor HOLD (1939-2004)
The Image Stays: a cycle of seven love-poems for baritone and piano (1974) [22:08]
River Songs: song-cycle for soprano, baritone and piano (1978) [25:29]
Voices from the Orchard: song-cycle for baritone and piano (1982-83) [29:13]
David Wilson-Johnson (baritone)
Amanda Pitt (soprano)
David Owen Norris (piano)
rec. Turner Sims Concert Hall, University of  Southampton, September and December 2007


Experience Classicsonline

Hold was a consummate song composer. The three cycles here demonstrate his unerring ear for word placement and for plasticity of phrasing. The fact that he sets his own words in all three cycles is simply indicative of a general quality in his writing.

The Image Stays is the earliest, written in 1974 and first performed by the two musicians on this disc – both ardent champions of the composer – in a Radio 3 broadcast in 1979.  Indeed Wilson-Johnson and Owen Norris premiered all three cycles. Hold characterises with immediacy and he can summon up reflective moods in a trice. The listless drift of Indifference is a single example from this earliest cycle but so too is the admonitory chording of the next song, A Warning. I would guess that At Fawsley Church is inspired by – and deliberately evokes - Larkin’s An Arundel Tomb. But then there is the scuttling and pliant Music Plays and then the last and by far the longest setting of the poem that gives its name to the cycle. It’s an air over a ground, a powerful and stalking setting, perfectly distributed between voice and piano – passionately controlled.

Four years later Hold wrote River Songs which was premiered in 1982 with these two performers and Sheila Armstrong in another broadcast. It’s a kind of verse travelogue Here the excellent soprano Amanda Pitt joins Wilson-Johnson. Things range from impressionistic treble flicker in Reflections with its rich vocal line, finely descriptive, to the strolling gait and reflective, evocative lyricism of Along the River to the wistful Envoy with which the cycle ends.

Voices from the Orchard was completed in 1983 and was once again subject of a broadcast first performance, this time in 1990. It was written for ‘the two Davids in memory of Henry Williamson (1895-1977)’ and draws on Hold’s childhood memories – though Everychild rather than specifically autobiographical memories. Is that a roar of thunder on Dandelion Days? More certainly we feel the ‘forty winks’ of his grandfather’s sleep – that tick-tocking is both simple and affecting. The Weekly Visitors is an especially vibrant, very folk like, probably the most extrovert single setting in the three cycles. There are dark touches here as well – Illness provokes unsettled  responses - but the final song Awakening restores equilibrium and optimism with its generous lyricism.

The composer’s champions offer the most insightful musicianship imaginable, their long experience of his music having permeated their responses with intimate understanding. The songs perhaps remind one a little of Britten’s though for me they stand at something of a remove. What infuses them is a Clare-like sensibility, the countryman’s freedoms that so engrossed and animated Hold; the poetry and music that result are free of mannerism, of pretence and posturing remaining at all times direct, subtle, and alive.

Jonathan Woolf


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