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My Own Country
see end of review for track listing
Felicity Lott (soprano), Graham Johnson (piano)
rec. Champs Hill, Pulborough, Sussex, 14-16 May 2003
CHAMPS HILL RECORDS CHRCD024 [70.12]

This disc features a range of composers and songs within the English solo song genre, with works grouped thematically. It opens with three songs, under the theme Country Courtship - two of these by Parry and one Ireland. Felicity Lott immediately impresses one with her sensitivity, enunciation and communication of the moods contained within - with, for example, an appropriate and thrilling sense of exultation in Parry’s My Heart is like a Singing Bird.
 
The following group To Music contains two Elgars and two songs by Roger Quilter. Whilst the Elgars are performed with tremendous sensitivity and passion, I found the two Quilter songs, and, in particular, the sublime Music, When Soft Voices Die, too unemotional. This rendition doesn’t seem to take the space and time to explore fully the depths of the song, and appeared to me to lack the nostalgia and beauty of that by John Mark Ainsley on Hyperion for example; it doesn’t quite capture the essence of this exquisite gem.
 
Love’s Philosophy comes next, mainly comprising songs by Elgar, but finishing with the eponymous work by Quilter; and Country Scenes follows, with Ireland, Quilter, Bridge and Warlock. This opens with Ha’nacker Mill, in which, again, I felt the soul of the song wasn’t fully grasped or transmitted by the artists, with the music missing the black depths of bleakness and the sinister air that it really needs to bring the words alive. I also have an issue with Quilter’s Go Lovely Rose being sung by a female voice - which just never works for me - and in any case an extra layer of tenderness seemed to me to be required in this particular instance. On the other hand, the final song of the group, Bridge’s charming Go Not Happy Day is extremely well-sung, and Lott brings out perfectly the sense of effervescence.
 
The Night and Dawn section opens with Quilter’s Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal and also includes Warlock’s version of Sleep, with extremely sensitive accompaniment from Graham Johnson, but a lack of darkness in Lott’s voice - again, another song that seems to me generally to work better with a male voice - and Warlock’s The Night, in which Lott creates a superb ghostly atmosphere.
 
Children’s Corner features a rather brilliant performance of Elgar’s wonderful Blue-Eyed Fairy. Lott gives this song a lovely dancing lilt; really bringing it to life and making it sparkle. Elgar is followed by four delightful children’s songs by Fraser-Simpson, all of them well communicated, and then two Lehmann songs, include the soprano duet Matilda, in which Lott impresses in both parts.
 
The disc, neatly, concludes as it opened with Parry and Ireland in Envoys. The disc as a whole is beautifully packaged, with good notes, full texts and pleasingly thick and glossy full-colour booklet paper. There are some interesting and pleasing choices of songs here, as Lott and Johnson sometimes avoid the better-known versions of song and opt instead for less familiar ones, such as Parry’s versions of O Mistress Mine and Under the Greenwood Tree - although the listings on back cover and inside the booklet erroneously put the latter work down to Elgar. The singing and accompaniment are generally superb - with musical intelligence, understanding and good communication, but I did feel that there were some works - especially those by Quilter - in which Lott regrettably doesn’t quite capture the beauty and simplicity of these gorgeous works.
 
Em Marshall-Luck  

Track listing
Country Courtship
Sir Hubert PARRY (1848-1914) O Mistress Mine [1.19]
John IRELAND (1879-1962) The Trellis [2.46]
Sir Hubert PARRY (1848-1914) My Heart is like a Singing Bird [2.03]
To Music
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) Speak, Music, Op.41 No.2 [3.02];In Moonlight [2.05]
Roger QUILTER (1877-1953) Music, When Soft Voices Die [1.30];Music and Moonlight [2.09]
Love’s Philosophy
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) Pleading, Op.48 No.1 [2.58];Twilight, Op.59 No.6 [3.04];Under the Greenwood Tree [1.32]
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941) Strew No More Red Roses [2.40]
Roger QUILTER (1877-1953) Love’s Philosophy [1.21]
Country Scenes
Peter WARLOCK (1894-1930) Ha’nacker Mill [2.50];My Own Country [2.37]
John IRELAND (1879-1962) I Have Twelve Oxen [1.51]
Roger QUILTER (1877-1953) Go, Lovely Rose [2.42]
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941) Go Not, Happy Day [1.20]
Night and Dawn
Roger QUILTER (1877-1953) Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal [2.02]
Peter WARLOCK (1894-1930) Sleep [2.25];The Night [2.14]
Sir Arnold BAX (1883-1953) The White Peace [2.30]
Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)Ushas (Dawn) [3.07]
Children’s Corner
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) The Blue-eyes Fairy Op.78 [2.37]
Harold FRASER-SIMPSON (1872-1944) Missing [1.37];Politeness [0.43];Halfway Down [1.53];Lines Written By A Bear Of Very Little Brain [1.05]
Liza LEHMANN (1862-1918) Henry King [2.42];Matilda [2.58]
Envoys
John IRELAND (1879-1962) When I am Dead, My Dearest [1.52]
Sir Hubert PARRY (1848-1914) Good-Night [2.07]

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