Support us financially by purchasing
this through MusicWeb
for £12 postage paid world-wide.
Roger QUILTER (1877-1953) Songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano)
Adrian Farmer (piano)
rec. Wyastone Leys, Monmouth, Wales, United Kingdom, 2014 NIMBUS NI5930 [63.32]
This is an interesting collection with some songs that
are not usually recorded. Alas I cannot welcome it unreservedly. As
Valerie Langfield, author of Roger Quilter – HisLife
and Music points out in her notes to this CD, so many of Quilter’s
songs were composed for the male voice and so many CDs are correspondingly
male orientated. Examples include Benjamin Luxon and David Willison
on a 1989 Chandos recording (CHAN8782) or John Mark Ainsley and Malcolm
Martineau on Hyperion’s 1996 recording (CDA66878). A much more
satisfying variety can be achieved with a mix of male and female voices.
This was the case with Lisa Milne and Anthony Rolfe Johnson with Graham
Johnson on Collins Classics (1997; reissued on Naxos)
or Sir Thomas Allen and Dame Janet Baker with Stephen Hough on the 2003
Classics Quilter Compendium. This new album with female voice only
is a somewhat unusual venture.
One of the difficulties I have with this album is the often fatally
slow tempi that tend to drain the life from these exquisite songs. Two
examples: Music, When Soft Voices Die as sung by de Rothschild
tarries for 2.11 whereas Ainsley’s reading is just 1.26. Autumn
Evening dawdles over 3.35 compared to Ainsley’s 2.50. These
slow tempi may be expressive but the excessive longueurs can ruin the
song’s shape. On the credit side, Ms de Rothschild’s timbre
is appealing, fresh and youthful-sounding.
Adrian Farmer’s accompaniments — setting aside the question
of tempi — are fluent and engaging and as evocative as Quilter
might have wished. Adrian was trained as an accompanist at the Royal
Northern College of Music in Manchester but often works behind the scenes
as a record producer and as the creative focus for Nimbus.
In passing I could not resist comparing Quilter’s settings of
the Dowson verses (Songs ofSorrow) with those of
Frederick Delius. Try Passing Dreams, so well known for the
line “They are not long, the days of wine and roses,” and
In Spring for “… But the spring of the soul …
cometh no more for you or for me …”. Impressive though the
Quilter settings are I much prefer the greater intensity Delius brings
to the sentiments of Dowson’s verses.
Not entirely convincing.
"Ian's thoughtful review needs no comment from me, but I would
add the following factual observation. In addition to the songs he
references that have a 'female' text, two of the most significant sets
of songs - the 4 'Songs of Sorrow', and the 3 'Blake Songs' - were in
fact premièred by women. The 'Songs of Sorrow', by Edith Miller
Quilter at the piano) on 16 November 1907 at Bechstein Hall, and the
'Blake' Songs by Muriel Foster on 14 December 1917 at the Wigmore Hall.
From which one might reasonably infer that gender stereo-typing,
however lightly applied in Quilter's case, is a risky business.
Reference Valerie Langfield's essential book 'Roger Quilter. His Life
and Music'. Boydell Press 2002.
Contents List St Valentine’s Day (Shakespeare, Hamlet, Ophelia) (1917/19)
[2.08] How Should I Your True Love Know? ('Four Shakespeare
Songs' Op. 33) (1933) [2.18] Daisies After Rain (Judith Bickle) (1951) [1.01]
Songs Op. 14 (1910): Autumn Evening (Arthur Maquarie) [3.35]; April (William Watson) [1.01]; A Last Year’s Rose (W.E. Henley) [2.44]; Song of the Blackbird (W.E. Henley) [1.12] Cuckoo Song – from Three Songs Op. 15 (1913/14) (Alfred
Williams) Orpheus with His Lute (Shakespeare, Henry VIII) Two Shakespeare
Songs Op. 32 (1938) [2.16] Music (Shelley) (1947) [2.17] Slumber Song (Clifford Mills from Where the Rainbow Ends)
Songs Op. 25:
An Old Carol (Anon.) (1927) [2.24] Arab Love Song (Shelley) (1927) [1.39] The Fuchsia Tree (Manx Ballad) (1923) [1.29] Song of the Stream (Alfred Williams) (1921) [3.28] Music, When Soft Voices Die (Shelley) (1926) [2.11] Songs of Sorrow Op. 10 (1921): A Coronal (Ernest Dowson) [3.27] Passing Dreams (Ernest Dowson) [2.13] A Land of Silence (Ernest Dowson) [3.06] In Spring (Ernest Dowson) [3.08] Three Songs of William Blake Op. 20 (1916/17): Dream Valley [2.20 The Wild Flower’s Song [2.29] Daybreak [2.09] Two September Songs (1916): Through the Sunny Garden (Mary Coleridge) [2.18] The Valley and the Hill (Mary Coleridge) [1.24] Wind from the South (John Irvine) (1936) [2.19] April Love (Roger Quilter) publ. 1952 [1.56]
I write on a factual matter in response to your review of Quilter Songs
performed by Charlotte de Rothschild and myself. Your reviewer took
strong objection to our general approach to tempo, asserting that we
adopt speeds that are too slow, and thereby rob the songs of their essential
shape. To assert that a performer has wilfully ignored or misunderstood
the composer’s requirements is a wounding accusation. We were
anxious to reassure ourselves that in recording these wonderful songs
we had been faithful to Quilter’s instructions. The general reader
will not be aware that Quilter was fastidious in the presentation of
his published scores; his markings are precise in all aspects of phrasing,
dynamics, rubato and tempo. We came to rely on them as being both supportive
Regarding tempi, of the twenty-eight songs included in our recital only
three have no metronome mark - St Valentine’s Day (unpublished
in his life), Slumber Song, and Daisies after Rain.
Presumably your reviewer did not having access to these now elusive
scores, and has made his comment based on comparison and preference
alone. Close examination confirms that only three of our performances
differ by more than two metronome marks from Quilter’s suggestions.
I will supply the metronome marks if the reviewer would like to see
them. Mr Lace may prefer to hear these songs at faster tempos, and other
performers may feel more comfortable taking less time to present the
texts, but it is incorrect, and itself misleading, to say we have misrepresented
Quilter in the matter of speed. We would be obliged if you will amend
the review, and, if you wish, publish this commentary.
My own experience, now thirty-five years as Nimbus Music Director and
record producer, has convinced me that the only absolute
obligation of performers is to study the scores they play with enormous
care. We should all abhor the adulation accorded to musicians who impress
while ignoring their scores. It is not enough to bundle listeners to
the cliff edge with promises of excitement and passion; they deserve
no less than a complete journey, understanding and savouring each step
along the way. This usually takes more, rather than less, time.
With thanks for Musicweb-international’s on-going, dedicated support
for classical music.
Founding Editor Rob Barnett Senior Editor
John Quinn Seen & Heard Editor Emeritus Bill Kenny Editor in Chief
Vacant MusicWeb Webmaster
David Barker MusicWeb Founder Len Mullenger