The masque of pastiche
TREVOR HOLD listens to
baritone songs by John Jeffreys
Somm SOMMCD 218
The songs of John Jeffreys pose an interesting question: is it possible
to write music of quality and integrity in a stile antiqua? He was
born in 1927 and is therefore of the same generation as Stockhausen, Boulez
and Henze, yet he writes as though he were a contemporary of Quilter, Ireland,
Gurney and Warlock. He even chooses the same poetry that they did: 'I
will go with my father a-ploughing', 'Brown is my love',
'I will make you brooches', 'Weathers', 'The Salley
Gardens': all of which have been set more memorably, sometimes definitively.
He is certainly in the English Romantic Song tradition, in his careful
word-setting, the way he deploys voice and piano, his acute ear of texture
and harmony, his lyrical vocal-writing. But ultimately he lacks three things:
memorability, originality and a recognisable voice. The latter is perhaps
inevitable with the wide range of styles that he adopts in these songs.
In the end, to write anything worthwhile you have to find an original, personal
voice, and that means you cannot be somebody else. The authentic Jeffreys
[listen -- track 6, 0:01-1:05] does occasionally
surface, for example in the three Housman settings, but mostly he is submerged
behind the masque of pastiche.
The songs are given excellent interpretations by Jonathan Veira (baritone)
and Shelley Katz (piano).
Copyright © 24 August 2002
Trevor Hold, Peterborough, UK
PURCHASE THIS DISC FROM CROTCHET
Of Fire and Dew - 21 Baritone songs by John Jeffreys
SOMMCD 218 DDD Stereo 63'20" 1999 Somm Recordings
Jonathan Veira, baritone and Shelley Katz, piano
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