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<<  -- 4 --  Roderic Dunnett    SING ENGLISH SONG

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The comments on each song are generally quite short -- an extended, well-considered paragraph on each. But taken together, the range of helpful advice Varcoe offers amounts to a goldmine. He nearly always furnishes reasons -- one might dispute some of these -- for his preferences, which ensures they never feel like prejudices, whether he is arguing for a particular pacing, shading, dynamic, legato, or word-emphasis. His terminology is not always free-flowing, but he prefers patiently spelling things out to the muddy dangers of ambiguity. By and large, he succeeds.

There's no sign of Birtwistle, Cornelius Cardew or the Songmaker's Almanac, but two sections will give special added pleasure to aficianados of what deserves to be called Englisches Lied : Chapter 7, which offers a longish summary of the genre from Dowland to the present day (not all who merit a mention are glimpsed in succeeding chapters : the indefatigable Henry Bishop fades from view, for instance -- saved up, one hopes, for a further volume); and Chapter 8, consisting of 18 pages of summary biographies of many of the poets who feature, from Dekker and Jonson to Kipling and Masefield, which helps underline the book's key tenet, held as fervently by Stephen Varcoe as by Fischer-Dieskau : that whatever the language, communication of text is the very essence of the songster's art.

Sing English Song :
A Practical Approach to the Language and the Repertoire,
by Stephen Varcoe. 

Thames Publishing, p/back £14.95. ISBN 0 905210 73 5 
Distributed by William Elkin Music Services, tel. +44 (0)1603 721302

 

Copyright © 26 November 2000 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK

 

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