An Anthology of English Song
Full list of contents at end of review
Stuart Burrows (tenor)
Valerie Masterson (soprano)
Thomas Allen (baritone)
Sarah Walker (mezzo)
Peter Jeffes (tenor)
Raimund Herincx (baritone)
Patricia White (soprano)
Jonathan Rees (violin)
rec. Henry Wood Hall on 11 March 1989 1989

The presentation of this disc must surely be one of the worst that I have encountered. The information given on its content is minimal and much of it is wrong. No pianist is named, although he, she or they are admirably responsive to the music and to the singers throughout.. “Bird songs at eventide”, is certainly not anonymous as the title list claims; it is one of the best known songs of Eric Coates. The first song is not by “Henrey Lesley” but by Henry Leslie (this reminds me of the pirate LP attributing the tenor lead in “Raymond and Agnes” to Wilma Calpin rather than William McAlpine). Even more misleading is the title of the disc - Gwynn Williams, whose song about his little Welsh home is included here, would not have been pleased to have been described as English, nor would Carrie Jacobs-Bond or Richard Hageman, both Americans. Perhaps it means that the words are in English, but that seems like special pleading to me. The brief notes on the music are unhelpful and no texts are included. I have amended the contents list below on the basis of my own limited research but I would not be surprised at a need for further corrections, and I would certainly be interested in knowing who the arranger is for the excellent version of “Blow the wind southerly”.

None of these defects of presentation would be of any importance if the performances and recording were poor. Then one could simply write it off as a disc best avoided. In fact, however, the actual performances on it are very well worth hearing, and as a whole it is very desirable. I was immediately drawn in by Stuart Burrows’ singing of “Annabelle Lee”. The words of this song are by Edgar Allen Poe, and whilst Leslie’s setting is imaginative the song depends for its effect on the words being projected clearly and with conviction. They certainly are here, and the result is spellbinding. Similarly with the Kashmiri Song and even “My little Welsh home”. This may not be great art but it is touching and sincere. Like most of the songs here it occupies that curious middle ground between art song and ballad. “A perfect day” is more a ballad, but certainly a good one, whereas “Do not go, my love” is more an art song, but again a good one. The programme is in some ways reminiscent of the kind of groupings that were the normal fare at the concerts of provincial music clubs fifty or sixty years ago. At the time they may have seemed unadventurous, especially to those of us more interested then in Boulez and Stockhausen, but now that much of this repertoire has vanished from live concerts it is very welcome to be able to reassess its qualities. There is scarcely a single item that does not come up freshly when heard in performances like these. All of the singers represented here sing idiomatically with good diction and a real command of varied tone colour. All in all, a feast. And as in the best feasts, the best is saved to last. The five folk songs for voice and violin (no piano) by Rebecca Clarke are also available performed by these artists on a Guild CD. I have not heard that disc but certainly as performed here these are, for me at least, a delightful find, full of energy and real invention, and making the most of this unusual combination.

I have no doubt therefore that this is a disc well worth having if you have any liking for this kind of repertoire. All of the singers are masters of this kind of song, and after hearing the three that each is allowed you may well find yourself like me wanting another from each of them. Once you have heard the disc it is easier to ignore the sloppy presentation, even if you may well still wonder why a company should expect purchasers to buy a disc over which they seem to have taken so little trouble.

John Sheppard

A disc well worth having if you have any liking for this kind of repertoire

And a further review - from Rob Barnett

This anthology, in large part, tracks the sort of collection that used to be found on Saga LPs. The difference is the span of types of singer.

Stuart Burrows has that nasal sound I associate with Robert Tear. He handles the song Annabelle Lee (Leslie) with sincerity and avoids its worst sing-song tendencies. Kashmiri Song - is classic salon stuff with a touch of the 1970s revival that resurrected this repertoire in the early 1970s. My Little welsh home with its crystalline piano accompaniment is lachrymose yet dignified. Valerie Masterson in When You Come To The End Of A Perfect Day is the exemplar of Edwardian repletion at its best. Now sleeps the crimson petal by Quilter transcends this genre completely and is most beautifully done by Masterson. Bird songs at eventide with its trilling lucidity lets sleep into the bloodstream.

Thomas Allen is extremely well known. His Linden Lea is dignified. Silent Worship takes us back into Saga territory and, I confess, did little for me. Silent Noon is early RVW and is engagingly done. There’s no difficulty in picking up the sung words - just as well because the leaflet does not print them..

Sarah Walker's Music for a while (Purcell) is classic territory. It’s a slowly stepping reading of great pathos in which Walker sounds rather like Janet Baker. Her Parry O Mistress Mine skips along with a Beethovenian accompaniment. Blow the wind southerly is better known in the Kathleen Ferrier recording. Walker is not going to be outfaced by that classic and handles the song with enormous sensitivity. The pianist (unnamed - none of them are) matches her in those pianissimo trills and flurries.

Peter Jeffes introduced me to To Mary by Maud Valerie White. This is more conventional fare: half hymn - half love-song melancholia. Armstrong Gibbs’ The Cherry Tree has a rather Irish flavour. Jeffes singing evinces a slight strain and he is not quite in same league as others or he was caught on a bad day. That said, his sincere projection of the words and their meaning is notable beside the standards achieved by his more celebrated kindred. Elgar’s Is She Not Passing Fair is superior salon fare.

Raimund Herincx - for many years the darling of the choral society circuit and beyond - - is heard in The Vagabond. He is the first stentor among this band of brothers and sisters. What's more he loses not a single syllable. I was not expecting anything this fine. In Sea Fever (Ireland) to words by Masefield.Herincx gives an enthusiastic and exciting jolt to the words: “and the wheel kicks”. He is steady as a rock in his long low held notes but not quite as steady at the other end of his compass. I had never heard the Hageman song. It is tender, poetic and somber.

After 18 songs for solo voice and piano we end with five for voice and solo violin. They’re by Rebecca Clarke. Patricia White conspires with Jonathan Rees in these songs of precious quasi-antiquity. There’s jollity and nonsense in The Tailor and His Mouse. I know my Love is an exercise in whimsy. I know where I am going is the famous song given a new spin and twist through shimmering harmonics from the violin. As I was goin' to Ballynure is a typical Irish jig and frankly a little of this goes a long way.

Rob Barnett

There is a perfunctory liner note. Some very engaging songs here and because of the format it is nicely varied and makes for a satisfying recital.

Full Contents (amended and corrected where necessary. JS)

Stuart Burrows
1 Annabelle Lee - Henry Leslie (1822-1896) [3:02]
2 Kashmiri Song (Four Indian Love Lyrics) - Amy Woodforde-Finden (1860-1919) [3:03]
3 My little Welsh home - W S Gwynn Williams (1896-1978) [2:19]
Valerie Masterson
4 When you come to the end of a perfect day - Carrie Jacobs-Bond (1862-1946) [2:41]
5 Now sleeps the crimson petal - Roger Quilter (1877-1953) [2:29]
6 Bird songs at eventide - Eric Coates (1886-1957) [2:54]
Thomas Allen
7 Linden Lea - Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) [2:36]
8 Silent worship - Adapted from an aria in Tolomeo by George Friderich Handel (1685-1759) by Arthur Somervell (1863-1937) [2:14]
9 Silent noon - Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) (4:29]
Sarah Walker
10 Music for a while - Henry Purcell (1659-1695) [3:21]
11 O mistress mine - Hubert Parry (1848-1918) [1:20]
12 Blow the wind southerly - Traditional, arranged ?? [4:01]
Peter Jeffes
13 To Mary - Maude Valerie White (1855-1937) [3:27]
14 The cherry tree - Cecil Armstrong Gibbs (1889-1960) [2:38]
15 Is she not passing fair - Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934) [3:00]
Raimund Herincx
16 The Vagabond (Songs of Travel) - Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) [2:58]
17 Sea Fever - John Ireland (1879-1962) [2:28]
18 Do not go, my love - Richard Hageman (1881-1966) [2:51]
Patricia White & Jonathan Rees
19 Phillis on the new mown hay [2:44]
20 The tailor and his mouse [1:51]
21 I know my love [2:09]
22 I know where I’m going [2:56]
23 As I was goin’ to Ballynure [1:44]
19-23 all arranged by Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979)

There is a perfunctory liner note. Some very engaging songs here and because of the format it is nicely varied and makes for a satisfying recital.