Robin Milford is one of those valuable English composers whose gifts are sadly overshadowed by more ebullient musical personalities that dominated the first half of the century -- not unjustly, but unfortunately for a notable number of sensitive, inspired and technically adept musicians. Especially in song were they the voice of Englishness, and Milford among them had a wonderful way with words. This is his buoyant setting of William Cornish: 'Pleasure it is to hear iwis the birdies sing ...'
Listen -- Summer. Pleasure it is
(track 17, 0:30-0:45) © 2008 Toccata Classics
His piano music also has vitality and wit, as in his delightful Prelude, Air and Finale on a well know mordent.
Listen -- Prelude
(track 19, 0:01-1:03) © 2008 Toccata Classics
Milford had a charmed life until he was about forty when suddenly the combined tragedies of war, the death of his mother and then the road accident that killed his six-year-old son brought about a profound change in his personality. He made two unsuccessful suicide attempts before finally succeeding just after Christmas 1959. The music of this last decade of his life became darker, and he was drawn to darker texts too as in the sequence of nine Swan Songs completed in 1951. Two are settings of words by his cousin, the poet Anne Ridler -- Expectans expectavi: 'The candid freezing season again ...'
Listen -- Expectans expectavi
(track 27, 0:02-0:34) © 2008 Toccata Classics
But the care and humour of his earlier piano pieces, like those of his suite Reputation Square, a set of hornpipes arranged in 1937, may well remain the enduring image of this gifted composer.
Listen -- George's, and the New Wells Hornpipe
(track 10, 0:01-0:27) © 2008 Toccata Classics
Copyright © 27 September 2008
Patric Standford, Wakefield UK
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Robin Milford: Piano Music and Songs
TOCC 0009 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 78'20" 2008 Toccata Classics
Phillida Bannister, contralto
Raphael Terroni, piano
Robin Milford (1903-1959):
My Lady's Pleasure, for piano (1 Pastorale; 2 Gavotte; 3 Jig)
Four Hardy Songs (4 No 2 'The Colour; 5 No 4, 'Tolerance')
6 Cradle Song (Blake)
7 Daybreak (Donne)
Reputation Square, for piano (8 Matthew's and Welch's; 9 Reputation Square; 10 George's, and the New Wells Hornpipe; 11 Trim the French; 12 Jack in his Trousers; 13 Jupiter in the Clouds)
Four Songs (Bridges) (14 No 1 'So Sweet Love Seemed'; 15 No 2 'Elegy'; 16 No 4 'Love on my Heart')
Four Seasonable Songs (17 No 2 'Summer. Pleasure It Is' (Cornysh); 18 No 4 'Winter. This Endris Night' (Anon))
Prelude, Air and Finale (on a well-known mordent), for piano (19 Prelude; 20 Air; 21 Finale)
Swan Songs (22 Song of St Mary the Virgin (The Magnificat); 23 The Song of Simeon (The Nunc Dimittis); 24 Idleness (Young); 25 Christmas Day (Young); 26 In Cornwall (Ridler); 27 Expectans expectavi (Ridler); 28 The Holy Tide (Tennyson); 29 The Glance (Herbert); 30 Sleep (Williams))
31 Jenifer's Jingle, for piano
32 Days and Moments: II Autumn: No 4, 'An Epitaph' (Walter de la Mare)
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