W. H. Auden reads W. H. Auden
1. In Memory of W.B. Yeats 3.53
2. In Praise of Limestone 6.13
3. The Capital 1.21
4. School Children 1.21
5. As He Is 2.33
6. Five Lyrics 10.35
7. Precious Five 00.51
8. Winds 2.40
9. Woods 3.08
10. Mountains 3.35
11. Lakes 3.26
12. Islands 1.36
13. Plains 4.48
14. Streams 4.37
Recorded in 1953
15. Homage to Clio 5.14
16. Metalogue to the Magic Flute 7.03
17. The Hard Question 1.37
18. Song 1.26
19. The More Loving One 00.55
20. A Walk after Dark 2.00
21. A Chorus 1.35
22. First Things First 2.08
23. Alonzo to Ferdinand 4.47
Recorded in 1960
FORUM FRC6145 [78:12]
Regis has a sub-label called Forum which specialises in the spoken word. Itís begun to release discs of poets reading their own works. To date itís issued discs by Eliot, Betjeman, and Dylan Thomas (in the Richard Burton readings, which includes Under Milk Wood) and Auden. All are familiar, and have been released and re-released many times but a sympathetic and competitively priced series is certainly no bad thing.
Before proceeding, however, Iíd like to encourage companies to delve a little deeper into British, and especially American, LP collections of poets reading their own work. Caedmon is perhaps the most obvious example, but Spoken Arts, working out of New Rochelle, NY did some good work. It brought out an Auden LP Ďdirected by Arthur Luce Kleiní and read by the poet. This was a cannily constructed selection, offering a retrospective of his work and the opportunity for Auden to comment between readings, adding a degree of illumination for the listener. This dual approach avoids the somewhat unremitting nature of much poetry on disc, where the listener tries - and often fails - to keep up with the poet.
The chances are that if youíve heard Auden reading, itís from the poems that Forum has reissued. The more obscure things, such as his reading from The Shield of Achilles or his great memorial to MacNeice, The Cave of Making, remain resolutely hidden in the tracks of the Spoken Arts LP. But it is valuable for the listener and admirer of the poet to come across such obvious examples as In Memory of W.B. Yeats, The More Loving One and Five Lyrics one of which is As I Walked Out, and another Sing, Ariel.
The recordings were made in 1953 and in 1960. The bizarre incongruity of Audenís long American ĎAí is like a verbal vestigial tail. It was by then a completely natural feature of his speaking voice, but it is so off putting that one canít help noticing it. Also, the recording quality varies between sessions. The later recordings, which include The More Loving One, The Hard Question and Homage to Clio are very much clearer than the somewhat muddied 1953 sessions.
Iím not sure that the cover artwork is much of a success but I am certain that fresh generations will appreciate the contents of this generously priced disc.
Jonathan Woolf