Themed recitals, and so themed CDs, are not that uncommon but
Charlotte de Rothschild has made something of a speciality of
them and toured the world with them. Her ‘Family Connections’
recital used songs from her own family’s Livre d’Or dating back
to the 1820s. Her ‘Woman’s Lot’ recital includes song accompanied
by the harpsichord. Just recently she has also toured a ‘Making
History’ recital in which Danielle Perrett, herself well known
as an international recitalist and a regular on CD, was her
platform partner. She included something of mine in a recital
which accompanied the Joan Miró exhibition in America.
What a wonderful pairing they make showing an extraordinary
sense of understanding and of ensemble. The close recording
would have exposed any anomalies on that score, and there are
very few among the twenty-one mostly little known songs many
of which should be much better known. Lovers of British music
will be particularly pleased to discover more Armstrong Gibbs
and Michael Head let alone Harold Samuel and also Herbert Brewer
who is usually associated with church music. Some names will
be totally new, for example John Larchet. What about harpist
Nancy Calthorpe? So we owe Charlotte and Danielle much in making
these pieces available.
In case you think that all of these pieces were written originally
for voice and harp it’s worth remembering that quite often piano
parts can be easily adapted or played as written on the harp
if they do not demand too many pedal changes. Nevertheless the
most idiomatic songs will clearly be audible: for example Danielle
Perrett’s own, lovely arrangement of A Garten Mother’s Lullaby.
The disc successfully mixes arrangements of traditional melodies
like the one mentioned above and those by Calthorpe and Marjorie
Kennedy-Fraser with ‘Art’ songs. However although the cover
presents the delicious painting (Titania and her fairies) by
Edward Hughes (d.1914), a pre-Raphaelite, there are recorded
just two settings of Shakespeare from ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’.
These are by Julius Harrison and Cecil Armstrong Gibbs. The
former repeats its opening lines but ends not at a full stop
in the text but at a comma, leaving you somewhat in the air.
What about some of the highlights? Its good that all texts are
not only available but also not microscopic as can often be
the case. A wide range of poets are represented. The two songs
by John Larchet are entrancing. He was Dublin-born and set texts
by his countryman Padric Gregory partially using Irish words
and phrases. These songs include the rich and darkly toned ‘fiddle’
of Marianne Olyver. Where there are Fairies of course, there
are to be found the Irish or at least Irish folklore and poets.
Charles Villiers Stanford, Irish to the bone, sets a poem by
Moira O’Neill, The Fairy Lough, with its haunting refrain
‘Loch-a reema’. Even through and through Englishman Michael
Head captures the Celtic mood perfectly in his well known unaccompanied
setting of The Singer with words by Bronnie Taylor.
Hamilton Harty’s A Lullaby is one of the most evocative
songs on the disc with its more chromatic harmonies. It sets
a poem by singer and poet Cahal O’Byrne.
The song which is the centrepiece of the disc is also the longest,
Stanford’s La belle dame sans merci, a poem by Keats,
so beloved of the Pre-Raphaelites who were pretty much Stanford’s
contemporaries. Its opening is simple and the setting basically
strophic. It develops dramatically up to the words La belle
dame… and then slips back to how it began. It is movingly
characterised by de Rothschild.
I took quite a shine to Harold Samuel’s floaty and escapist
The Fairy Boat. He was a pianist and famous as an early
Bach specialist. The date August 1918 and the place Hastings
indicate an attempt to put aside the terror and violence of
that year. We wallow, just for a moment, in a dreamland where
there are ‘Fairies at the bottom of the garden’. The latter
is the title of the witty song by Liza Lehmann - herself a professional
singer - setting a famous poem by Rose Fyleman.
My only adverse criticism is that I would have liked, for the
sake of variety, another unaccompanied song, and/or a harp solo.
However the beautifully presented booklet has all of the texts,
not that you will need them as Charlotte de Rothschild’s diction
is immaculate but there are some Irish words to get the mind
around. There are the usual performer biographies and an accompanying
essay on the overall theme of the CD. There’s very little on
the individual pieces or the composers but then these charming
miniatures really speak for themselves.
Charles SPROSS (1874-1961
Will O’ the Wisp
Cecil Armstrong GIBBS (1889-1960)
In the Faery Hills
Michael HEAD (1900-1976)
The Fairy Taylor
[2.18]; The Singer
(1884-1967) A Stoirin Ban
Roger QUILTER (1877-1953
Rutland BOUGHTON (1878-1960)
Charles Villiers STANFORD
(1852-1924) The Fairy Lough
[4.17]; La Belle
Dame Sans Merci
Arr. Nancy CALTHORPE (?
) A Leprechaun
Julius HARRISON (1883-1963)
I Know a Bank
Arr. Marjorie KENNEDY-FRASER
(1857-1930) The Lure of the Fairy Hill
A Fairy’s Love Song
Sir Alfred Herbert BREWER
(1865-1928) The Fairy Pipers
Arr. Danielle PERRETT A
Garten Mother’s Lullaby
Sir Herbert HAMILTON HARTY
(1879-1941) A Lullaby
from 6 Songs of Ireland
Liza LEHMANN (1862-1918)
There are Fairies at the bottom of the garden