Three Ravens ó Folksongs
1. The Three Ravens [3:22]
2. The Cuckoo [1:44]
3. How Should I Your True Love Know (Ophelia's song from Hamlet) [1:43]
4. Sweet Nightingale [2:17]
5. I Will Give My Love an Apple [1:44]
6. The Oak and the Ash [2:23]
7. King Henry [2:43]
8. Coventry Carol [2:19]
9. Barbara Allen [2:10]
10. Heigh Ho, the Wind and the Rain (Twelfth Night) [1:58]
11. Waly, Waly [3:02]
12. Down in Yon Forest [2:14]
13. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John [3:07]
14. The Tailor and the Mouse [1:34]
15. Greensleeves [2:18]
16. The Wraggle Taggle Gypsies [3:15]
17. Lord Rendall [5:39]
18. Sweet Jane [2:39]
19. The Frog and the Mouse [1:47]
20. The Seeds of Love [3:53]
21. Flowers in the Valley [2:17]
22. Near London Town [3:05]
23. O Who's Going to Shoe Your Pretty Little Foot [1:36]
24. Blow Away the Morning Dew [3:16]
25. Searching for Lambs [2:17]
26. Sweet England [2:58]
27. Dabbling in the Dew [2:00]
28. Strawberry Fair [2:12]
29. Just as the Tide Was a-Flowing [2:24]
Alfred Deller (counter-tenor)
Desmond Duprť (lute and guitar)
rec. 1956
Texts included
ALTO ALC 1148 [74:13]

I last reviewed these recordings when they appeared in one of Vanguardís big Deller boxes (review). I noted then that if your acquaintance was shaped by the LP of The Three Ravens then you would note that we were missing two lute solos. And from The Wraggle Taggle Gypsies LP disc we no longer have a number of items including those by the Taylor Recorder Consort, the Dolmetsch-arranged consort pieces, the Fantasia on Polly Oliver and Gathering Peas. If you bought the single CD on Vanguard Classics [08802671], which appeared in the early 1990s, you will notice a similar discrepancy, one that Alto has not sought to correct. It faithfully follows Vanguardís box set running order, not that earlier single disc, so donít be confused by this slight muddle.

Nevertheless some of Dellerís most rapt and beautiful mid-period solo singing is contained here. The breath control, colour, legato, diction, the way he conveys sentiment, sorrow, elation, earthiness and courtly restraint, all these qualities illuminate these folk songs as seldom since, and probably never before. Doubtless listeners will have their favourites amongst these 29 selections. The plangent quality and sincerity of his singing of I Will Give My Love an Apple has always seemed to me incomparable, whilst Sweet Nightingale embodies the kind of singing, phrasing and attention to textual clarity that are hard ever to forget. Certainly when I hear this song, itís always Dellerís timbre that infiltrates my mind, and refuses to leave. But it would be too easy to enumerate quite why Dellerís singing here is so cherishable. In this respect Duprťís contributions should not be over-estimated, as he provides supple support. Clearly these performances are not in accordance quite with how these songs are sung today ó but then, most things have changed since 1956, and it strikes me that criticism of past performance practice in this area is a futile business. This is simply great artistry.

Jonathan Woolf

This is simply great artistry.