One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here


International mailing

Up to 40% off

  Founder: Len Mullenger

Some items
to consider


colourful imaginative harmony
Renate Eggebrecht violin

Leticia Gómez-Tagle
Chopin, Liszt, Scarlatti

Guillaume LEKEU

Book 1 Book 2 Book3
Mota The Triptych: -Website

Acte Prealable returns
with New Releases

Superior performance

Shostakovich 6&7 Nelsons

Verdi Requiem Thielemann

Marianna Henriksson
An outstanding recital

Arnold Bax
Be converted

this terrific disc

John Buckley
one of my major discoveries

François-Xavier Roth
A game-changing Mahler 3


Bryden Thomson


Vaughan Williams Concertos

RVW Orchestral



We are currently offering in excess of 51,000 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger



CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS

Charles Wilfred ORR (1893-1976)
The Complete C.W. Orr Songbook - Volume 1
Seven Songs from ‘A Shropshire Lad: Along the field, When I watch the living meet, The Lent lily, Farewell to barn and stack and tree, Oh fair enough are sky and plain, Hughley Steeple, When smoke stood up from Ludlow (1927-1931) [22:05]
Silent Noon (1921) [4:35]
Tryste Noel (1927) [3:23]
The Brewer’s Man (1927) [1:36]
Two Seventeenth Century Poems: The Earl of Bristol’s farewell, Whenas I wake (1927-28) [3:38]
Slumber Song (published 1937) [2:26]
Fain would I change that note (published 1937) [2:09]
When the lad for longing sighs (1921) [2:43]
The Carpenter’s Son (1921-22) [5:29]
When I was one-and-twenty (1924) [2:01]
Soldier from the wars returning (1928) [2:57]
When summer’s end is nighing (?) [3:31]
Two Songs from A Shropshire Lad: ’Tis time, I think, by Wenlock town, Loveliest of trees, the cherry (1921-22) [5:25]
Mark Stone (baritone); Simon Lepper (piano)
rec. Potton Hall, Suffolk, 22-23 December 2010
STONE RECORDS 5060192780123 [62:07]

Experience Classicsonline

I have had to wait a long time for this project to be realised. Certainly, I heard my first song by Charles Wilfred Orr some forty years ago. It was a setting of A.E. Housman’s great poem, ‘When I was one-and-twenty.’ Over the years I have heard other songs included in recitals and featuring on records, tapes and CDs. With the publication of Jane Wilson’s excellent study of the composer, C.W. Orr – the unknown song-composer, the complete extent of the song-setting has become clear. Conventional wisdom, up to that point, suggested that Orr had only chosen to set Housman’s poems. However, it soon became clear that although that poet did feature often in his song settings, there was a wide variety of other texts and poets. There are some 36 songs listed in the catalogue. Out of these there are some 22 settings of Housman. Other writers include Helen Waddell, Arthur Waley, D.G Rossetti, James Joyce and Robert Bridges. Additionally, the catalogue listed three choral settings and two instrumental works – one the Cotswold Hill Tune for string orchestra (Naxos) and the Midsummer Dance for cello and piano. More about that Dance and the choral pieces below.
It is not really necessary to give a biography of the composer in this review. However one or two brief points may be of help to someone coming to these songs for the first time. Charles Wilfred Leslie Orr was born in Cheltenham in 1893. He studied the piano privately. Unfortunately, the Great War interrupted his plans for a formal musical education. After the war he entered the Guildhall School of Music and studied composition. The second point of importance is his meeting with Delius, who was impressed with Orr’s music and acted as a mentor to him. He also met Peter Warlock who helped get his first songs published. Most of Orr’s setting were written before the Second World War, a few were composed in the forties and fifties, however he was musically silent between the Midsummer Dance of 1957 and his death some nineteen years later. Orr lived in Painswick, in Gloucestershire with his wife from 1929 until his death in 1976.
In later years the composer was somewhat bitter at the lack of recognition he had received. In 1974 he wrote that ‘… I have always been more or less ignored by the BBC … so it is nothing new … to be regarded as not worth performing, but all the same it is a bit disheartening to be cold-shouldered in one’s own country …’
C.W. Orr’s musical style not unnaturally owes much to Delius. However, as a young man he had studied and enjoyed the songs of Hugo Wolf and Johannes Brahms: these influences are never far away. Yet, as one critic put it, Orr was ‘no slavish imitator of any man’s work.’ Each poem that he chose to set established a mood in the composer’s mind that allowed him to create a perfect partnership between words and music. There is a huge difference in style between the lyrical beauty of Rossetti’s ‘Silent Noon’ and the dramatic, almost violent, sound of Housman’s ‘The Carpenter’s Song’.
The present CD, which is Volume 1 of a projected two-disc set, has 21 song tracks. So I wonder what will be on the second volume. It may be that there are a number of other songs that have been discovered since Jane Wilson’s book was published.
The recital opens with what is probably Orr’s best known song-cycle: Seven Songs from ‘A Shropshire Lad. These were composed between 1927 and 1931. ‘Along the Field’ is impressionistic in its effect. ‘When I watch the living meet’, is a meditation by someone looking forward to the calm of death. It is a brooding song. ‘The Lent Lily’ has a romantic ‘exuberant’ piano part. It is my favourite song of this group. The disturbing subject matter of fratricide is reflected in the powerful musical setting of ‘Farewell to barn and stack.’ The gentler, but equally troubling song ‘Oh fair enough are sky and plain’ is actually quite positive, bearing in mind the subject matter is suicide. ‘Hughley Steeple’, in spite of the fact that the church had a tower and not a steeple, is a reflective number that matches the thoughts of the Shropshire Lad in the graveyard. The final piece in in the cycle is the bouncy ‘When smoke stood up from Ludlow’: there is almost a folksy feel to this song. All these poems have been set many times by English composers; however, Orr’s ‘takes’ are effective. I believe that these are some of the finest settings in the repertoire.
‘Tryste Noel’ is a thoughtful number that is really a little parody on a medieval carol. This is one of the darker songs in the present collection. The Two Seventeenth Century Poems are particularly memorable: these love songs are expressive and a little gloomy. The Earl of Bristol’s Farewell is sad and reflective, with some interesting chromatic harmonies. ‘Wheneas I wake’ is a short song that again considers the emotions induced by absence. It builds to an impressive climax before a short piano postlude brings an end.
Orr’s first Housman setting was ‘When the lad for longing sighs’. It was one of six songs, which the composer sent to Peter Warlock for his approval. This is well-written and fuses the poet’s words with the music. It is not surprising that Warlock was impressed with it.
‘When I was one and twenty’ is one of Housman’s less disturbing poems. In fact it is really quite amusing. This setting balances folksong in the first and art-song in the second verse. This is one of the most effective settings of this poem in the repertoire.
The CD concludes with Two Songs from ‘A Shropshire Lad’. These were composed in 1921/22 when the composer was on holiday in the south of France. However, images and recollections of the ‘Land of Lost Content’ were never far from his mind. These epitomise that connection between landscape and music that has proved so elusive to many composers but was achieved by Orr. The first song is ‘’Tis time, I think by Wenlock Town’ which is a celebration of the arrival of spring. Orr makes use of a bell-like motif throughout. My favourite Housman lines are delightfully set – ‘Spring will not wait the loiterer’s time/Who keeps so long away’. Delius is never far distant from this song with its delicious shifting harmonies.
Many composers have set ‘Loveliest of Trees’, including Muriel Herbert, Graham Peel and Janet Hamilton. However, the musical touchstone must be George Butterworth’s masterpiece. It is not appropriate to suggest that Orr’s setting is better or worse: it is another excellent addition to the repertoire. This song is contemplative, ideally fitting words to music and communicating the poet’s sense of transience.
I am not sure what the point is of providing Orr’s Midsummer Dance for cello and piano with words from Housman’s Last Poems. I do not care if the result of ‘When summer’s end is nighing’ is effective or not: it is just that it seems odd. I would much rather they had recorded the original piece, even though it would if been outside the remit of this CD. The Dance was written in 1957 and was dedicated to the cellist Penelope Lynex, the daughter of the composer’s friend Richard Lynex. All things said, I think this setting is awful: it just does not work. I believe that it does no justice to Orr’s genius.
Neither am I convinced by the inclusion of the three songs that are usually classified as choral music: ‘The Brewer’s Man’, ‘Slumber Song’ and ‘Fain would I change that note’. It could well be that Orr produced versions for baritone and piano, however they are not included in the catalogue of his music provided in Jane Wilson’s biography of the composer. ‘The Brewer’s Man’ was a big gutsy song written for the baritone John Goss. However the original version included a two-part choir. It is a setting of a poem by the Plymouth-born poet Leonard Alfred George Strong. The second choral piece is ‘Slumber Song’ to a text by Noel Lindsay. This time the work was written for choir and piano. It is a lovely reflective tune that complements the atmospheric words and imagery of moon, millwheel and dreams of yesteryear. Finally, ‘Fain would I change the note’, was originally conceived for three-part choir and piano. This a powerful four-square tune that fits surprisingly well with the thought that ‘Love is the perfect sum/Of all delight.’
I enjoyed this CD –with the caveats noted above. It was good to hear a number of songs by C.W. Orr that I have never heard before. Mark Stone, baritone and Simon Lepper, pianist perform all these songs with feeling and enthusiasm. They have a deep sympathy for the composer’s style and the texts, which he has set.
The liner-notes are excellent and include the first part of an essay about the composer which explains ‘the creation of a song-writer.’ It is essential reading and I suggest that it is read before putting the CD into the player. Each song has a short programme note and includes the text.
This disc will appeal to all lovers of English Song. It is an important release that will encourage more performances and further study of these beautiful songs.

John France





























































































Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.