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September Songs
Thomas Allen (baritone)
Lucy Crowe (soprano)
Stephen Higgins (piano)
rec. 2018, Music Room, Champs Hill, UK

Cross-over – when a classically schooled singer indulges in popular songs – is no novelty in itself. ‘Caruso did it, Gigli did it, even Wunderlich and Björling did it’ to travesty Cole Porter’s classic 1928 song. Björling even sang the dance band hits of his youth – although under assumed name. The secret with those mentioned – and a lot of others successfully crossing borders – was that they didn’t look down on the material they were singing and tried to make it sound ‘serious’. A lot of others made that serious mistake, and it is only considerate not to mention any particular names.

Thomas Allen, who turned 74 just a month ago, has always had the ability to adjust his voice and style to whatever material he is singing, and he takes ‘The Great American Songbook’ very seriously in the same way as Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole did, i. e. as close to what the composer intended it to sound like. One must marvel at how well-preserved his voice is. The velvet tones he has lavished on Don Giovanni’s serenade and many art songs is unmistakably there, his care over nuances is just as exquisite as ever and his enunciation of the texts is second to none. Once or twice one can suspect that he isn’t thirty anymore – but only once or twice. Listen to They didn’t believe me (tr. 2) and you understand what I mean. In All the things you are (tr. 4) Stephen Higgins rips off a swinging accompaniment and Thomas Allen has the easy-going ability to amalgamate with the piano. Just one of those things (tr. 6) is also light and fluent – no sense of an operatic baritone struggling to let his hair down – and the beautiful The folks who live on the hill (tr. 7) is warm and inward.

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s dark and sad Come home Joe (tr. 8) from the 1947 musical Allegro was new to me, but as sung here by Thomas Allen it was a real find. I was also deeply impressed by the elegance with which he executes Our love is here to stay (tr. 12) – and also the piano playing of Stephen Higgins. He also makes the most of the rustling leaves in Autumn leaves (tr. 14). The title melody, Kurt Weill’s September song (tr. 15) is on a par with Sinatra’s reading. As a tribute to Leonard Bernstein in his 100th anniversary year he performs two of his songs, one of them a duet from On the town, where he is partnered by the lovely soprano Lucy Crowe. From an interview with Thomas Allen on Presto Classical, I conclude that he had mixed feelings about Bernstein as a person, but there is no difficulty to hear that he really loves his music.

There are two more duets, of which the melancholy I remember it well (tr. 11) from Gigi is particularly lovable. The old couple who recall when they met a long time ago – but the memory falters. The final lines go:
Honore: Am I getting old?
Mamita: Oh, no, not you
How strong you were
How young and gay
A prince of love
In every way
Honore: Ah, yes, I remember it well

All seventeen tracks are gems and the disc has given me unalloyed delight. There is, alas, a reservation from the record company: ‘Unfortunately, the cost of permission from the relevant publishers to print the song lyrics for each work is too high for us to be able to include the song texts in this booklet.’ It is unfortunate, but fortunately, as I pointed out earlier in the review, the singers’ excellent diction almost makes the texts redundant. So don’t hesitate. I do urge readers to give the disc a listen. You will not regret it.

Göran Forsling

Irving BERLIN (1888 – 1989)
Call Me, Madam (1950):
1. You’re Just in Love [2:37]*
Jerome KERN (1885 – 1945)
The Girl from Utah (1914):
2. They Didn’t Believe Me [2:53]
Kurt WEILL (1900 – 1950)
Lady in the Dark (1941):
3. My Ship [2:59]
Jerome KERN
Very Warm for May (1939):
4. All the Things You Are [3:08]
George GERSHWIN (1898 – 1937)
Oh, Kay! (1926):
5. Someone to Watch Over Me [3:38]
Cole PORTER (1891 – 1964)
Jubilee (1935):
6. Just One of Those Things [2:46]
Jerome KERN
High, Wide, and Handsome (1937 film):
7. The Folks Who Live on the Hill [3:11]
Richard RODGERS (1902 – 1979)
Allegro (1947):
8. Come Home Joe [3:18]
Hi Diddle Diddle (1934 revue):
9. Miss Otis Regrets [2:26]
Sacha DISTEL (1933 – 2004)
Les Sept péchés capitaux (Seven Deadly Sins)(1962 film):
10. The Good Life [2:14]
Frederick LOEWE (1901 – 1988)
Gigi (1957):
11. I Remember it Well [2:52]*
The Goldwyn Follies (1938):
12. Our Love is Here to Stay [3:49]
Harold ARLEN (1905 – 1986)
The Sky’s the Limit (1943):
13. One for My Baby [4:39]
Joseph KOSMA (1905 – 1969)
Les Portes de la nuit (1946 film):
14. Autumn Leaves (orig. Les feuilles mortes) [2:57]
Knickerbocker Holiday (1938):
15. September Song [4:02]
Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918 – 1990)
On the Town (1944):
16. Some Other Time [3:35]*
Arias and Barcarolles (1988):
17. Greeting [2:41]

* Lucy Crowe (soprano)



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