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CD Spotlight

UNKNOWN GEMS

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'Throughout, Varcoe and Benson give musicianly, affectionate performances ...'

Two Hyperion albums of Stanford's songs -
with TREVOR HOLD

 

Stanford Songs - 1. Copyright (c) 2000 Hyperion Records Ltd.

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].

Stanford Songs - 2. Copyright (c) 2000 Hyperion Records Ltd.

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 booklet notes.

 

Copyright © 1 October 2000 Trevor Hold, Peterborough, UK

 

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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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