This disc was originally released in 1999 in Australia as Melba
MR301083 and had been on sale in Britain in 2000 until stocks
were depleted. At the time, a number of record collectors incorrectly
assumed that the disc was a transcription of original Peter Dawson
records with its boxed sound and narrow frequency spectrum. That
image was not helped by having a black and white picture of Dawson
himself listening into the trumpet of a 78 rpm acoustic gramophone.
However, any suggestion of a transcription is not the case. The
recording is modern with a top class orchestra providing extra
audible depth to the band parts with high quality and fully digital
reproduction. The soloist, Gregory Yurisich is a rich bass-baritone
who achieves that resonant sense of presence that so characterised
the Dawson sound.
As for the songs, we can often find them second-hand
and may be curious about what they were really like. Of the
thousands of once-popular ‘parlour ballads’ that still linger
in forgotten piano stools only a few modern recordings exist.
These are generally provided, un-orchestrated, with piano
set down a number of songs with orchestra on 78rpm records
but their sometimes poor quality of reproduction brought a
need for modern orchestral recordings. Apart from the occasional
BBC broadcast those versions with orchestra have rarely been
heard but what an extra dimension of richness is created when
Orchestration of early British songs was usually
carried out by arrangers, rather than composers, working in-house
for the likes of Boosey and Chappell. These publishers realised
the intrinsic promotional value of such efforts and the potential
to boost sheet music sales through concert hall performances.
I notice that the source of the excellent orchestrations used
here has been omitted from the otherwise interesting notes.
Peter Dawson was a well-known bass-baritone
who rose to fame in the 1920s and 1930s with many concert
hall and BBC performances of the popular songs he sang on
radio and on the early television of those days. This did
much to accelerate sheet music sales and as a gauge of his
popularity it is reported that thirteen million of his records
The selection on this CD is typical of Dawson’s output and cover a wide range of composers and their
ballads: The Floral Dance, The Vagabond, Old
Father Thames and The Kerry Dance probably need
no introduction. The orchestral arrangement for On the
Road to Mandalay with its florid bridging section between
verses is charming and needs special mention. Sullivan’s notable,
The Lost Chord is stunningly powerful with its image
of the British
Empire and use in Mike Leigh's Gilbert & Sullivan
film, Topsy Turvey.
There are other songs unfamiliar by name yet
known in tune. They are sung with good clarity and delivered
at a comfortably brisk pace. Lloyd-Jones engages a good pace
for singer and orchestra and brings sensitivity to the performance.
Glorious Devon evokes that deep nostalgia of Old England
and carries one along with imperialistic overtones. The trumpet
embellishments of Old Father Thames with its solid rhythm is joyfully uplifting that would
make this and other songs ideal for the Last Night of the
Proms. It is an ideal CD to bring memories of yesteryear flooding
back, and it is good to hear works of our forgotten British
composers whose music regularly turns up in second-hand bookshops.
lyrics are provided in the lavish booklet. It is difficult to
decide from the contents list exactly who the librettist and composer
is - sometimes the librettist appears first; sometimes second.
There are detailed notes on Dawson, detailing his 1909-10 Australian tour but it would have
been nice to have included some of the British background to the
HMV recordings. I would be fascinated to know who the orchestrators
were because some of the compositions were only available as piano
Gregory Yurisich is an international singer
with operatic experience in Verdi, Puccini, and Rossini before
moving to encompass some of the Wagnerian roles in Siegfried
and Lohengrin. He sings with resonant tone and good
clarity of lyrics. To me, his resemblance to Dawson lies in his timbre, wide register and powerful
delivery. Yurisich has a wide repertoire of grand opera, particularly
Verdi, and appears with the Royal Opera and English National
Opera at Covent Garden and Edinburgh. His international tours include Hong Kong, Paris, Brussels, Geneva, Melbourne, Sydney and Washington.
David Lloyd-Jones began
as a member of the music staff of the Royal Opera House, Covent
Garden in 1959. He founded Opera North in Britain, and has worked with Welsh National Opera and appears at most major
Two tracks from the earlier disc have been
deleted from this programme: ‘Love could I only tell Thee’
(Capel) and ‘Even Bravest Hearts’ - Faust (Gounod).
The bonus is that the issue comes with an attractively printed
card-case and superior booklet with good notes by Jeff Brownrigg
Australian Melba label provides a series of four discs (two by
Bonynge). One is Massenet arias and another is R. Strauss songs.
The fourth is of British music of an earlier period than this
disc, "The Power of Love", which contains arias by Balfe,
Sullivan and W. V. Wallace (see