Peter WARLOCK (1894-1930)
see end of review for track listing
Elspeth Piggott, Emily Hall, Livy Lewis, Lottie Bowden, Angela Hicks (soprano soloists), Natasha Cutler (alto), Thomas Drew (tenor), Rachel Haworth (organ)
The Carice Singers/George Parris
rec. St. Peter's Church, Hampton Lucy, Warwickshire, UK, 8-10 September 2013
NAXOS 8.573227 [72:09]
Those redoubtable Naxos talent-scouts have done it again; here is a fine young choir appearing for the first time on a commercial disc. Their repertoire is far from standard fare, though one or two of the Warlock items here may be familiar in various contexts - Bethlehem Down and Adam lay ybounden, for example, as Christmas choral numbers, Ha'nacker Mill and My Own Country as solo songs.
It is fascinating music, coming as it does from this strange, bipolar but brilliant man, the exact manner of whose death has never been fully explained, but was probably suicide. That many-sided personality is fully demonstrated on this CD. At one extreme, you have sturdy, rousing songs such as The Sycamore Tree (track 18) or Where Riches is Everlastingly (track 22); at the other, the haunting introversion of The Night, or the Delian harmonies taken to the point of atonality in The full heart, which sets a poem by his life-long friend Robert Nichols.
Those last two are, for me, the outstanding experiences of this enjoyable programme. The Night begins with a memorable musical image, the altos chanting on a single note, while the other parts float wordlessly around them. A silvery moon seen against shifting clouds? Maybe that seems fanciful to you, but, at its best, Warlock's music has a powerfully evocative imagery. I was also intrigued to hear his setting of Corpus Christi, in which he projects alto and tenor solos against a quietly rocking yet slightly uneasy background. Masterly, and very interesting to compare this with the version by the young Britten, which appears in his A Boy Was Born, textually coupled with In the Bleak Mid-winter.
The Carice Singers is a choir of young singers brought together in 2011 by conductor George Parris, a graduate of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. Their name is taken from that of Edward Elgar's daughter - the legitimate one, that is - whose name was in turn a contraction of her mother's names, Caroline Alice. Thus one can fairly deduce a special commitment to English music - and perhaps also to that of the 19th and 20th century repertoire? Their quality is easily perceived from the number of soloists they are able to provide for this recording, all of whom sing with great accomplishment - with special mention for Lottie Bowden in Balulalow, and tenor Thomas Drew in Corpus Christi.
The organist is Rachel Haworth, who provides sensitive accompaniments to eight of the tracks. The balance places the organ quite far back; I would have liked more presence in the sound, but the instrument itself in St. Peter's may have its limits, who knows. The issue is also notable for containing one of Warlock's settings of songs in the Cornish language - in the original tongue, which looks at first glance like misspelt Welsh, but proves to be nothing of the sort.
All in all, a successful and enjoyable CD, and I am looking forward to hearing more from this excellent choir.
The full heart (1921) [4:47]
Ha'nacker Mill (1927) [2:12]
The night (1927) [2:05]
My own country (1927) [1:54]
The spring of the year (1925) [2:26]
Three dirges of John Webster [12:32] (All the flowers of the spring (1923) [5:32]
Call for the robin redbreast and the wren (1925) [2:09]
The shrouding of the Duchess of Malfi (1925) [4:51]); As dew in Aprylle (1918) [1:37]
The five lesser joys of Mary (1929) [3:13]
The rich cavalcade (1929) [2:34]
The birds (1926) [1:36]
Corpus Christi (1919) [4:28]
Benedicamus Domino (1918) [1:16]
Adam lay ybounden (1922) [1:16]
Three carols [5:46] (Tyrley tyrlow (1922) [1:58]
Balulalow (1919) [2:11]
The sycamore tree (1923) [1:37]); I saw a fair maiden (1927) [4:56]
Carillon carilla (1929) [4:35]
Benneth Nadelik ha'n Bledhan Nowedh (1918) [1:12]
Where riches is everlastingly (1927) [2:44]
Bethlehem Down (1927) [4:50]
What cheer? Good cheer! (1927) [2:06]
A Cornish Christmas Carol (1918) [4:17]
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