November 2002 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Curio Corner

Compilation: Ian Bostridge sings:- Nol COWARD (1899-1973)  
Ian Bostridge (tenor) with Sophie Daneman (soprano) and Jeffrey Tate (piano); Recorded at EMI Studio No. 1 Abbey Road, October and November 2001
  EMI 557374 2   [64:19]
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noel coward songbook

Songs. [ Arrangements by Corin Buckeridge ]:

  • I Travel Alone(1934)
From the 1920s:-
  • Parisian Pierrot (London Calling 1923)
  • Poor Little Rich Girl (On with the Dance - 1925)
  • World Weary (This Year of Grace - New York Production 1928)
  • Mary Make-Believe(This Year of Grace)
  • A Room with a View (This Year of Grace)
  • Dance, Little Lady (This Year of Grace)
  • If You Could Only Come with Me (Bitter Sweet 1929)
  • I'll See You Again (Bitter Sweet)
  • Zigeuner (Bitter Sweet)
  • The Dream is Over (1928)

From the 1930s:-
  • Any Little Fish (Cochran's 1931 Review)
  • Twentieth Century Blues (Cavalcade 1931)
  • Mad Dogs and English Men (Words and Music 1932)
  • Let's Say Goodbye (Words and Music)
  • Something to do With Spring (Words and Music)
  • The Party's Over (Words and Music)
  • Someday I'll Find You (Private Lives - 1930)
  • Never Again (Set to Music 1939)

Cross-over albums are fraught. So many artists specialising in the classics come to grief crossing over to popular fare especially show music. So often their customary, more solemn style of singing crushes the spontaneity and joie-de-vivre of lighter music. Ian Bostridge not only has to overcome the perils of crossing this divide but also of battling against the formidable, one might also say indelible image of Nol Coward singing these, his own creations although the master's inimitable way of delivering these clever songs should not be considered as exclusive.

Corin Buckeridge's arrangements clearly have Bostridge's voice and range in mind. Except for an occasional self-conscious attempt at too-close-a-Coward emulation as in 'World Weary' and 'Mad Dogs and Englishmen', they work well. There are disappointments - Buckeridge's 'Dance Little Lady', for example, tends to be too rushed for comfort. Bostridge weaves his way through the intricacies of Coward's frequent rhythm and tempi fluctuations and his mastery of those quick tongue-tripping lyrics like "Imagination is a form of flagellation, If a sensitive child lets it run wild" from 'Mary Make-Believe' is most impressive. Bostridge's enunciation is spot on and he delivers all the songs in this compilation with pleasing expressiveness and his accentuations, just short of extravagance, would surely have pleased the master.

Sophie Daneman is an attractive soprano partner, singing well in the spirit of Coward, in 'A Room with a View', 'I'll See You Again' and 'Someday I'll Find You' although sometimes the two voices are not an ideal balance. Away from the podium Jeffrey Tate provides an eloquent and often witty accompaniment.

In such a compilation there are bound to be disappointing omissions. For instance, I was disappointed not to hear 'If Love Were All' from Bitter Sweet.

A brave attempt at delivering some favourite Coward songs in a (slightly) different style. It is difficult to imagine this recording appealing to older listeners holding so many fond memories of Nol's inimitable manner, so full of calculated ennui. I imagine that the legions of Bostridge fans will be more intrigued, than fully won over.

Ian Lace


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