The Swingle Singers Anthology
A Capella Amadeus [52:23]
Bach Hits Back [53:25]
1812 [50:24]
Around the World - A Folk Song Collection [61:51]
Track listing at end of review
The Swingle Singers
rec. 1991 (discs 1 and 4), 1994 (disc 2) and 1995 (disc 3)
VIRGIN CLASSICS 9669562 [4 CDs: 218:32] 

The Swingle Singers made a name for themselves in the 1960s, impressing audiences with their up-beat, sometimes irreverent, sometimes impressive, renditions of classical standards for close harmony group. This four disc set, released in 2009 of recordings made in 1991, 1994 and 1995, shows that their magic has worn rather thin.

The first disc is entitled A Capella Amadeus and showcases various pieces of Mozart, ranging from the Symphony No. 40 through to extracts from the operas and Requiem. The most immediately apparent factor is the rather poor standard of singing: the intonation and ensemble are often rather suspect, there is no focus to the tone, and there is a disparity of singing styles which further emphasises the lack of unity.

The fact that a number of the works are severely truncated reinforces the sense that this is about gimmicks, rather than about the music. Once the initial amusement has worn off, the disc, regrettably, becomes progressively wearing. As for the Finale of the Horn Concerto No. 4 - well, I think I’ll be sticking to Flanders and Swann. I regret that I had to immediately skip over the first track (Ein’ Feste Burg) of the second disc, Bach Hits Back, after hearing the initial note, close-miked and sung with horrendously breathy tone.

Battling my way through the remaining tracks I was struck by how far a cry these interpretations are from Jacques Loussier’s sensitive and sophisticated treatment of Bach in a jazz idiom, and also how true the title of the final track rang: Es ist Genug. Disc 3 is entitled 1812 and includes popular classics from the 1812 Overture through to the Beatles. I’m afraid I found this rather crass, and was further frustrated by the fact that the speech element (apparently addressing a live audience) hadn’t been properly taken into account by the recording engineers and is, as a result, often inaudible. The final disc, Around the World - A Folk Song Collection, contains rather forced, stereoscopic realisations of folksongs.

One final point to note is the somewhat disturbing lack of care in the preparation of the back inlay - with tracks not accurately delineated and even containing a misprint in the heading.
Em Marshall-Luck 

The magic has worn rather thin. 

Track listing

Disc 1:
1 The Magic Flute - Overture 3:06
2 Symphony No. 40 in G minor K550: I. Molto allegro 4:01
3 Symphony No. 40 in G minor K550: II. Andante 2:55
4 Symphony No. 40 in G minor K550: III. Menuetto & Trio 1:50
5 Symphony No. 40 in G minor K550: IV. Allegro assai 1:57
6 Ave verum corpus K618 2:37
7 String Quartet No. 14 in G K387 - IV. Molto allegro 4:09
8 Così fan tutte K588, Act 1, Scene 3: Aria: Un'aura amorosa (Ferrando) 4:00
9 Serenade in G 'Eine kleine Nachtmusik' K525 - IV. Rondo (Allegro) 2:48
10 Horn Concerto No. 4 in E flat K495 - III. Rondo (Allegro vivace) 3:19
11 Don Giovanni, Act Two, Scene One: Canzonetta: Deh vieni all finestra (Don Giovanni) 2:02
12 Soave sia il vento (Trio) from Così fan tutte 2:56
13 Gigue in G K574 1:43
14 Piano Concerto No. 21 in C 'Elvira Madigan' K467 - II. Andante 3:56
15 Requiem in D minor K626: Hostias - 2:16
16 Requiem in D minor K626: Quam olim Abrahae 1:19
17 Rondo alla turca from Piano Sonata No. 11 in A K331 2:09
18 Fantasia in F minor and major 5:51
Disc 2:
1 Ein feste Burg, BVW 302 1:08
2 Organ Fugue from Fantasia and Fugue, BWV 542 2:40
3 Prelude XVIII from Das wohltemperirte Clavier, BWV 887 3:00
4 Chorale (No.4) from Wachet auf! (Sleepers, wake!) BWV140 3:15
5 Chorale from Wachet auf! BWV140 1:28
6 Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier, BWV 731 2:03
7 In dulci jubilo: Chorale prelude 1:58
8 In dulci jubilo: Chorale 1:13
9 Andante from Sonata No. 2 for violin, BWV 1003 3:38
10 First movement from Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, BWV 1048 2:45
11 Schafe können sicher weiden (Sheep may safely graze) from BWV208 4:07
12 Badinerie from Suite No. 2, BWV 1067 1:17
13 Fugue VIII from Das wohltemperirte Clavier, BWV 877 2:07
14 Three-part invention, BWV 782 2:52
15 Et resurrexit from Mass in B minor, BWV 232 2:42
16 Bist du bei mir (from the notebook of Anna Magdalena Bach) not arr. Connah 2:53
17 Blute Nur from St. Matthew Passion, BWV 244 3:39
18 Organ Fugue Alla Gigue, BWV 577 2:04
19 Air from Suite No. 3 (Air on a G String), BWV 1068 4:23
20 Little Organ Fugue, BWV 578 2:25
21 Es ist genug from Cantata No. 60, BWV 60 1:55
Disc 3:
1 William Tell Overture 2:59
2 Pastime With Good Company 2:21
3 3 Chansons de Charles d'Orléans: Dieu! qu'il la fait bon regarder! (1898) 1:53
4 3 Chansons de Charles d'Orléans: Quand j'ai ouy le tabourin (1908) 1:47
5 3 Chansons de Charles d'Orléans: Yver, vous n'estes qu'un villain (1898) 2:02
6 Fool On The Hill 4:53
7 Lady Madonna 3:33
8 Day Tripper 2:19
9 Blackbird/I Will 4:50
10 Somebody's Rocking My Dreamboat 2:57
11 Summertime (from'Porgy and Bess') 3:55
12 Another Hundred People 2:00
13 Clair de Lune (from 'Suite bergamasque') 4:39
14 Peter Gunn (arr.B.Baxter) 2:46
15 1812 Overture 7:55
Disc 4:
1 Cachapaya [Peru] 2:17
2 The Star of the County Down [Ireland] (arr. Ben Parry) 2:32
3 El Paisenito [Argentina] (arr. Swingle Singers) 3:39
4 De Punto y Taco [Chile] (arr. Swingle Singers) 2:22
5 The Ash Grove [Wales] (arr. Jonathan Rathbone) 3:10
6 David of the White Rock (Dafydd y Garreg Wen) [Wales] (arr. Ben Parry) 3:25
7 The Drunken Sailor [England] (arr. Jonathan Rathbone) 2:35
8 Ciao, Bella, Ciao [Italy] (arr. Ben Parry) 3:52
9 L'amour de moi [France] (arr. Swingle Singers) 3:12
10 Country Dances [USA] (arr. Swingle SIngers) 3:31
11 Waltzing Matilda [Australia] (arr. Jonathan Rathbone) 3:20
12 Danny Boy [Ireland] (arr. Jonathan Rathbone) 3:06
13 Charlie is my darling [Scotland] (arr. Ben Parry) 2:07
14 Loch Lomond [Scotland] (arr. Jonathan Rathbone) 3:56
15 The Salley Gardens [England] (arr. Ben Parry) 2:43
16 Joshua fit de battle of Jericho [USA: spiritual] (arr. Jonathan Rathbone) 3:00
17 Viel Freuden mit sich bringet [Germany] (arr. Ben Parry) 3:12
18 Bushes and Briars [England] (arr. Ben Parry) 2:52
19 Sakkijarven Polka [Finland] (arr. Jonathan Rathbone) 3:21
20 Vem Kan Segla [Swedish] (arr. Jonathan Rathbone) 2:57