'Throughout, Varcoe and Benson give musicianly, affectionate performances ...'
Two Hyperion albums of Stanford's songs -
with TREVOR HOLD
With Hubert Parry, Charles Villiers Stanford was the man whose example
and teaching did more than anything else to establish English Romantic Song.
His students at RCM included Bridge, Coleridge-Taylor, Walford Davies, Goossens,
Gurney, Holst, Howells, Ireland, Moeran and Vaughan Williams. A complete
list would involve most of the leading names in early 20th-century British
music. But as for his own songs, how many do you know? Songs of the Sea
still gets the occasional airing - perhaps, too, 'A soft day',
'La Belle Dame sans merci' and, for the lighter occasion, 'Trottin'
to the fair'. But considering that he wrote over 200, that is a meagre
tally and does his genius no justice. These recordings will help to remedy
the situation. Here we have not only the familiar songs, but also neglected
and, in some cases, unknown gems. The latter includes the eight songs
from George Eliot's The Spanish Gypsy, Stanford's
Opus 1, written whilst he was still a student. If they sound like German
lieder musically translated into English, then they also show an abundant
technique and natural lyrical gifts - a great songwriter at the outset of
his career [listen - CD I : track 6, 'Came
a pretty maid', 0:05-0:28] .
With the eight Heine songs (from Opp. 4 and 7) the link with German lieder
is consolidated; the debt here is especially to Brahms. Unlike Bridge and
other later British songwriters, who used English translations, Stanford
set the texts in the original German. The lullaby, 'Schlummerlied',
suspended over a tonic pedal throughout, is a little masterpiece [listen - CD I : track 17, 0:00 - 0:24].
The discs conclude with selections from two of 'Irish' songcycles,
The Glens of Antrim (poems by Moira O'Neill) and A Sheaf
of Songs from Leinster (W M Letts) and the complete A Fire of Turf
(Letts). Varcoe uses just enough Irish brogue to match the texts, something
that can be savoured in his delightful 'Trottin' to the fair'
[listen - CD I : track 20, 0:00-0:34]. Throughout,
Varcoe and Benson give musicianly, affectionate performances and Jeremy
Dibble, our leading Stanford authority, has supplied detailed and informative
Copyright © 1 October 2000
Trevor Hold, Peterborough, UK
CD INFORMATION - HYPERION CDA67123
PURCHASE VOLUME 1 FROM AMAZON
PURCHASE VOLUME 1 FROM CROTCHET
CD INFORMATION - HYPERION CDA67124
PURCHASE VOLUME 2 FROM AMAZON
PURCHASE VOLUME 2 FROM CROTCHET
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