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English Love - Songs of Passion, Pain and Pleasure
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Silent Noon [4:47]; Love bade me welcome [5:48]
John DOWLAND (1563-1626)
Awake, sweet Love, thou art return’d [3:08]
Roger QUILTER (1877-1953)
Go, lovely rose [2:59]; Love’s philosophy [1:29]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
I attempt from Love’s sickness to fly (arr. Britten) [2:25]
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
Come to me in my dreams [3:59]; Love went a-riding [2:00]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Silent worship (arr. Arthur Somervell) [2:26]
John IRELAND (1879-1962)
If we must part [2:21]; Love is a sickness full of woes [1:53]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Piercing eyes [1:40]
George BUTTERWORTH (1885-1916)
With rue my heart is laden [2:05]; When I was one-and twenty [1:18]
Joseph HAYDN
Pleasing pain [2:21]
Peter WARLOCK (1894-1930)
Take, O take those lips away [2:07]; Thou gav’st me leave to kiss [0:50]
George Frideric HANDEL
Where’er you walk (arr. Ebenezer Prout) [4:16]
Gerald FINZI (1901-1956)
To Lizbie Browne [3:46]; I said to Love [3:16]
Henry PURCELL
If music be the food of love (arr. Britten) [4:00]
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
The salley gardens [2:43]; Wild with passion [2:05]
John DOWLAND
Come again! sweet Love doth now invite [5:54]
Stephen BARLOW (b. 1954)
If thou would’st ease thine heart (from Four Lost Quilter Songs) [4:00]
Mark Stone (baritone); Stephen Barlow (piano)
rec. Potton Hall, Suffolk, UK, 11-13 November 2008
English texts included
STONE RECORDS 5060192780000 [73:47]
Experience Classicsonline

I first encountered the voice of the English baritone, Mark Stone, when I reviewed the first volume of his edition of the complete songs of Roger Quilter - when will Volume Two appear, I wonder? I commented then that he “possesses a good, pleasing voice, which he uses with intelligence and good taste.” And I think that verdict holds good in terms of this new release. As was the case on that Quilter release, he receives excellent support from Stephen Barlow.
 
And that Quilter project has had a surprising outcome. In his booklet note Mark Stone relates that when he and Stephen Barlow were researching Quilter’s songs they came across references to four songs which are now lost. Stone had the happy idea of suggesting to Barlow that he should compose his own versions of the songs in question “in the style of, and as a homage to, Quilter.” At the very end of this disc we hear the second of that quartet, presumably receiving its first recording. It’s an engaging setting of words by Thomas Lovell Beddoes (1803-1849), who, by chance or design, also furnished the text for Britten’s Wild with passion. Barlow’s song is a gently melancholic piece. It sounds completely convincing and it’s also rather lovely in its own right. I’d like very much to hear the complete set.

All the other composers on the programme are represented by two songs and the recital has been thoughtfully designed. For the most part, each pair of songs by the more recent English composers contrast nicely with each other. In between each pairing is placed a single example of a song from an earlier age, an arrangement that works well.
 
The Vaughan Williams pair begins with an account of Silent Noon that’s a touch too slow for my taste. Stone sings expressively, though he displays an occasional tendency to over-emphasise individual words - in this case the word “rosy”, which occurs as early as the second line. This habit crops up on a few other occasions in the recital. It’s not a major flaw but the effect is a little jarring when it happens, not least because it means the line is broken. Happily, an eloquent account of Love bade me welcome is much more successful.
 
I enjoyed the Quilter group. Love’s philosophy features on the aforementioned Quilter recital and once again it’s done well, with both performers conveying the eagerness of the setting. They’re equally adept at catching the mood of Go, lovely rose. In the Ireland coupling I much prefer, as a song, Love is a sickness full of woes to its more lachrymose companion. Bridge is represented by two very fine songs. Love went a-riding is probably the better known. This histrionic offering is given a proud, dramatic performance and Stephen Barlow seems to make light of the fiendish piano part. Somewhat less familiar, perhaps, is Come to me in my dreams. This is a wonderful song and Stone puts it across very well, especially the gentle longing of the first and last stanzas.
 
Bridge’s most famous pupil, Britten, is represented both as composer and arranger. His arrangement of The salley gardens is very well known. However, I can’t recall hearing his Beddoes setting, Wild with passion, before. This short song was, like A Ceremony of Carols, a product of Britten’s voyage back across the Atlantic when he and Peter Pears returned from the USA during the Second World War. It’s appropriately tempestuous. Britten is also credited with the Purcell arrangements. His realisation of If music be the food of love is a bit florid for my taste but Stone copes well with the ornate line. I like the way that he fines down his voice for I attempt from Love’s sickness to fly. Stephen Barlow’s accompaniments to both of these songs are tasteful.
 
In fact all the early songs are well done. Both performers display a light touch for the Dowland pieces and the same is true for the Handel offerings. In these Stone adds just the right amount of decoration to the vocal line in the da capo sections and I particularly warmed to his account of Silent worship. The two Haydn pieces are fairly slight but they are nonetheless delightful and good-humoured.
 
This is an intelligently planned and well-executed recital. We are certainly not short of discs of English song these days – hurrah!. This one is well worth hearing and I appreciate the thought that has gone into the choice of the items included in the programme and the positioning of them within it. The sessions took place in the pleasing acoustics of Potton Hall, Suffolk, which is seemingly becoming a venue of choice for recordings of song recitals. The documentation is good and is clearly laid out.
 
John Quinn
 


 


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