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Vaughan Williams, Ralph: English Song Series, Vol. 1 (CD) Collins 2003

Vaughan Williams:
English Song Series, Vol. 1 (CD)


The Five Mystical Songs, to texts by George Herbert, might have been written for Keenlyside.” The Telegraph

Composer Ralph Vaughan-Williams
Anthony Rolfe Johnson
Simon Keenlyside
Louisa Fuller
John Metcalfe
Graham Johnson
Label Collins Classic (re-issued on Naxos)
Code COLL14882 (Naxos re-issue Code 8 557114)
Released November 11, 1996 (re-issued 2003)
Number of discs 1
ASIN B00002644V

Track Listing

1. It Was a Lover and His Lass – ARJ, SK, GJ
2. The Lawyer – LF, SK
3. The SplendourFalls – ARJ, GJ
4.  The Water Mill – ARJ, GJ
5. Tired – SK, GJ
6. Silent Noon – SK, GJ
7. Searching For Lambs – LF, ARJ
8. Nocturne – SK, GJ
9. Joy, Shipmate, Joy! – SK, GJ
10. Lord, Come Away – JM, ARJ
11. Come Love, Come Lord – JM, ARJ
12. Five Mystical Songs: i Easter – SK, GJ
13. Five Mystical Songs: ii I Got Me Flowers – SK, GJ
14. Five Mystical Songs: iii Love Bade Me Welcome – SK, GJ
15. Five Mystical Songs: iv The Call – SK, GJ
16. Five Mystical Songs: v Antiphon – SK, GJ
17. On Wenlock Edge: i On Wenlock Edge – ARJ, GJ
18. On Wenlock Edge: ii From Far, From Eve And Morning – ARJ, GJ
19. On Wenlock Edge: iii Is My Team Ploughing? – ARJ, GJ
20. On Wenlock Edge: iv Oh, When I Was In Love With You – ARJ, GJ
21. On Wenlock Edge: v Bredon Hill – ARJ, GJ
22. On Wenlock Edge: vi Clun – ARJ, GJ
23. Dirge For Fidele – ARJ, SK, GJ

What the critics say

Alan Blyth for Gramophone, December 1996

This makes an auspicious start to a new, ambitious series from Collins Classics devoted to English song. At its heart lies Keenlyside’s sincere, unobtrusive account of the Five Mystical Songs in its version for voice and piano, one wholly in accord with these lovely Herbert settings. His warm, firm tone, smooth line and refined way with words combine to create an unforgettable impression, his more reticent way preferable to Bryn Terfel’s more extrovert, bumpy manner with Vaughan Williams (DG, 8/95). Keenlyside is no less impressive in the individual songs assigned to him, notably the late song ‘Tired’, one of four poems the elderly composer wrote to texts by his wife, Ursula, in 1956, and in the two Whitman settings, the hypnotic ‘Nocturne’ and the exuberant ‘Joy, Shipmate, Joy!’, which Keenlyside delivers with appropriate brio.

Keenlyside brings his wry sense of humour to ‘The Lawyer’, one of two folk-song settings with violin dating from 1925. The other, ‘Searching for Lambs’ is one of Rolfe Johnson’s sensitive contributions. The latter also delivers a typically sympathetic, subtly phrased, musing account of the famous ‘Silent Noon’ from The House of Life cycle. Then he draws a wide range of emotion and colour from the familiar On Wenlock Edge. Once or twice these Housman settings reveal his tone under stress, as at the end of ‘Heron Hill’; till then that moving song receives an inward, deeply felt reading.

The cycle is suitably supported by the intense, characterful playing of the Duke Quartet and Graham Johnson, though they don’t quite banish memories of the well-loved 1970 reading on EMI by Ian Partridge and the Music Group of London. Johnson’s contribution to the rest of a well-filled CD is as thoughtful as one would expect. The disc begins and ends with two little-known and pleasing Shakespeare duets where the singers’ voices blend nicely. The recording is excellent in presence and balance.

Michael Kennedy for The Telegraph, 16 November 1996

The first disc in an English Song Series, it covers Vaughan Williams’s song-writing from 1895 to 1956, including two of his rarely-heard Whitman songs from 1925. There is a splendid performance by Simon Keenlyside of the evergreen Silent Noon and Anthony Rolfe Johnson revives the gorgeous early romantic setting of Tennyson’s The Splendour Falls.

Two big works are included. In On Wenlock Edge, Rolfe Johnson and the Duke Quartet, with Graham Johnson, capture poetically the combination of English vigour with the delicate tints and subtleties of Ravel’s influence so evident in the Bredon Hill setting. The Five Mystical Songs, to texts by George Herbert, might have been written for Keenlyside. Hear the last, Antiphon and marvel.

Naxos re-issue reviewed by John Steane for Gramophone, March 2003

“A welcome return for a relishable array of familiar favourities and delectable rarities”

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