Irish Songbook
see end of review for track listing
Ailish Tynan (soprano), Iain Burnside (piano)
rec. 22-24 April 2009, St Paul’s Church, Deptford, London. DDD
SIGNUM SIGCD239 [62.34]
An excellent release from Signum Classics of songs by composers ranging from Bridge and Harty to Ireland and Barber, this disc features soprano Ailish Tynan accompanied by Iain Burnside. Initial impressions are good: the disc and booklet are well-presented, with full notes and, importantly, words to all the songs. The notes are by Philip Lancaster and are superb: invaluable in setting the featured songs in context; describing the growing feeling of national identity in Ireland at the end of the 19th century, and the resultant nationalist cultural movement led by figures such as W. B. Yeats. 

Although only a couple of the composers featured here are actually Irish - the rest are English and American. All the poems set are Irish, predominantly, though far from exclusively, by W. B. Yeats and James Joyce. There are also a number of arrangements of traditional Irish folktunes (by Moeran, Pendelton, Britten and Herbert Hughes), often from Thomas Moore’s nineteenth-century collection of Irish Melodies, which publication provided words which could be set to traditional Irish airs that had lost their original lyrics.
The songs featured have been carefully chosen and well-programmed; the result being a disc of attractive, atmospheric and evocative music. The only work which for me slightly jars is John Cage’s The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs (a setting of James Joyce for voice using only three pitches, and piano lid accompaniment) - whichsits a little at odds with the other, more lyrical, songs.
Irish-born and bred Ailish Tynan has a strong accent that, unsurprisingly, works extremely well here. She has a strong voice, and an excellent air of drama, as demonstrated in the whispered sections of Barber’s Solitary Hotel. She is also due full marks for enunciation, communication, and liveliness - in The Tinker’s Daughter, for example she creates a good sense of fun and vibrancy, and her accent is joy to hear. The only criticisms I have are of very prominent, gasping, breath-taking - which sometimes detracts, and the fact that she is late coming in at the start of The Minstrel Boy - very minor quibbles in the scheme of things! Iain Burnside is as sensitive an accompanist as one would hope and expect.
Highlights of this disc for me are the gorgeous To Eire by Arnold Bax, Bahnhofstrasse by C. W. Orr, and Flood by Herbert Howells - all these beautiful songs here given glowing, radiant performances. Certainly a disc that will strongly appeal to any lover of English song or of the enchanting, mysterious country that is Ireland!
Em Marshall-Luck 

Will strongly appeal to any lover of English song or of the enchanting, mysterious country that is Ireland! 

Track listing

Cloths of Heaven [3.08]
Solitary Hotel [2.41]
Lean out of the Window [1.47]
arr. Edmund PENDELTON
Bid adieu [3.08]
arr. E.J. MOERAN
The Roving Dingle Boy [2.15]
Arnold BAX
To Eire [4.19]
arr. Benjamin BRITTEN
The Last Rose of Summer [4.20]
The Tinker's Daughter [1.39]
The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs [2.50]
Flood [1.52]
Bahnhofstrasse [2.28]
arr. Herbert HUGHES
Marry Me Now [1.26]
arr. E.J. MOERAN
The Lost Lover [2.34]
arr. Benjamin BRITTEN
Avenging and Bright [1.47]
arr. Herbert HUGHES
Oh Men from the Fields [3.02]
St lta's Vision [3.25]
arr. Benjamin BRITTEN
The Minstrel Boy [2.07]
Tutto e Sciolto [2.01]
Herbert Hamilton HARTY
The Stranger's Grave [3.45]
arr. Benjamin BRITTEN
Sail on, sail on [3.00]
The Desire for Hermitage [3.24]
arr. Benjamin BRITTEN
At the mid hour of night [2.43]
arr. Benjamin BRITTEN
The Salley Gardens [2.52]