English Song Series

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The English Song Series Volume 22 - Benjamin Britten

The English Song Series Volume 22 - Benjamin Britten


Songs and Proverbs of William Blake, Op. 74

Tit for Tat

The Plough Boy

The foggy, foggy dew

Tom Bowling

O Waly, Waly

Oliver Cromwell

The Ash Grove

Down by the Salley Gardens

There's none to soothe

Little Sir William

Ca’ the yowes

Roderick Williams (baritone) & Iain Burnside (piano)

Britten wrote his Songs and Proverbs of William Blake, Op. 74 for the German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in 1965. The singer admired the ‘concentration and enigmatic smile’ of the settings, and Britten constructed, through alternation of proverbs with songs, and an intense contemplation on the human and the eternal, one of his greatest song cycles. By contrast Tit for Tat sees Britten revisiting youthful, light-spirited settings of the poet Walter de la Mare. The folk-song arrangements are amongst his most famous, and beloved.

Britten’s song cycles are some of the greatest produced in the twentieth century. This disc focuses on his Blake cycle, one of his deepest and most contemplative. It’s contrasted with a very different and youthful cycle of five called Tit for Tat, written when he was a teenager.

The baritone Roderick Williams encompasses a wide repertoire, from baroque to contemporary music, in the opera house, on the concert platform and in recital. His recital appearances have taken him to London’s Wigmore Hall and many European festivals. He has an extensive discography and his recordings of English song with Iain Burnside have received particular acclaim.

“this sombre, discomfiting song-cycle [the Blake settings] remains a strikingly modern-sounding work, thanks partly to Blake’s existential poetry and aphoristic proverbs. Williams illuminates the text, but it’s a relief to move on to Britten’s boyhood settings of Walter de la Mare” Financial Times, 12th May 2012 ***

“Williams finds an ideal emotional stance - involved, totally word-conscious but never melodramatic...as a recorded recital, Williams - and Burnside, who is similarly colourful but keeps an interpretative distance from pumping up the text - have created an outstanding achievement.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2012

“Williams's voice is lighter than Fischer-Dieskau's, but his response to the texts is so intense, so well judged that there is never a lack of authority. The juvenile Walter De la Mare settings of Tit for Tat provide the perfect foil, followed by some of Britten's best-known folksong arrangements, all beautifully delivered without a trace of archness.” The Guardian, 24th May 2012 ****

“Williams brings a gentler, more intimate touch to what Fischer-Dieskau called their 'enigmatic smile': Blake's Tyger burns bright but with less fierce teeth, and there is more melancholy than menace in this performance's view of the human condition. Every beautifully placed word is matched by Iain Burnside's recreation of Britten's pianistic subtext, glinting with many a revealing musical gloss.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2012 ****

“It would be easy to exaggerate the claims of these songs [Tit for Tat], but presented so cleanly and with such understanding as do Williams and his superb pianist, Iain Burnside, they make just the effect the mature composer surely intended.” MusicWeb International, July 2012

GGramophone Awards 2012

Finalist - Solo Vocal

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - June 2012

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The English Song Series Volume 19 - Ivor Gurney Songs

The English Song Series Volume 19 - Ivor Gurney Songs


On the Downs

Ha'nacker Mill

The bonnie Earl of Murray

The cherry trees

first recording

By a bierside

Five Elizabethan Songs

The Apple Orchard

All night under the moon (Wilfrid Gibson)

The Latmian Shepherd

I will go with my father a-ploughing

Last hours

Cathleen ni Houlihan

A Cradle Song (W B Yeats)

The Fiddler of Dooney


The Singer (Edward Shanks)

Nine of the clock (John Doyle)

Epitaph in Old Mode (Sir John Collings Squire)

The ship

The Scribe

Fain would I change that note

An Epitaph

When death to either shall come

Thou didst delight my eyes

The boat is chafing

Lights out

Susan Bickley (mezzo-soprano) & Iain Burnside (piano)

Described by his teacher, Stanford, as “the one who most fulfilled the accepted ideas of genius”, the poet and composer Ivor Gurney composed more than 300 songs despite suffering from bipolar disorder and tuberculosis.

The Five Elizabethan Songs show the young composer’s astonishing limpid fluency, while Tears and Sleep rank among his most exquisite creations.

Comedy, heavenly rapture, tender urgency and lovelorn longing all touch the music of this ‘lover and maker of beauty’, whose songs find ideal interpreters in Susan Bickley and Iain Burnside.

“Susan Bickley’s sensitivity and vocal allure confirming her among the finest mezzos of her generation” Classical Source

“…Susan Bickley shares with Gurney a direct and instinctive response to the inflections, metres and emotional colours of the English language.” BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2009 ****

“…the settings of John Masefield are especially memorable, notably "By a Bierside" with a wonderful final climax, superbly conveyed here by Susan Bickley. Wherever you turn, these songs offer illumination and refreshment, splendidly captured not only by Susan Bickley but by her ever-sensitive accompanist, Iain Burnside.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2009

“Bickley’s attractive mezzo is the perfect interpreter for Gurney, gutsy one moment, restrained the next, whilst textual clarity is always given paramount importance. Iain Burnside accompanies her superbly on the piano, with real passion for the music.” Opera Britannia, 26th August 2009 ***

“...as Susan Bickley's beautifully understated performances with pianist Iain Burnside show, Gurney was not only an important figure in early 20th-century English song, but also a distinctive one detached from its folksy mainstream. Gurney's style is much more European, much more conscious of the German Lieder tradition, and Schumann especially; this is a well-conceived and important disc for all English music enthusiasts.” The Guardian, 7th August 2009 ****

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The English Song Series Volume 18 - Ireland

The English Song Series Volume 18 - Ireland


Great Things

Three Thomas Hardy Songs

Sea Fever

The Bells of San Marie

The Vagabond

Santa Chiara


During music

Youth’s Spring-Tribute (D G Rossetti)



I Have Twelve Oxen

We'll To The Woods No More

Five Songs To Poems By Thomas Hardy

The Cost

When I am Dead, My Dearest

The Salley Gardens

Tutto e sciolto

If I had Dreams to Sell

Roderick Williams (baritone) & Iain Burnside (piano)

“Among the 26 Ireland songs on this disc are two cycles devoted to Thomas Hardy, dating from 1925 and 1926. Settings of Hardy's poems were of course at the heart of Gerald Finzi's output of songs, and there is nothing in these Ireland cycles that approaches the fine-honed responses and harmonic imagination of those, sensitively though Williams and Burnside present them. In fact it's hard to pin down a distinctive creative personality in any of these songs, and ironically it's the cycle We'll to the Woods No More from 1927 that seems the most individual, with texts from that favourite source for early 20th-century English composers, AE Housman, that has the most character.” The Guardian, 20th June 2008 ***

“Roderick Williams, with his sympathetic, warmly rounded baritone, and Iain Burnside are eloquent advocates of all these songs. Even they, though, cannot dispel a sense of sameishness, with pastoral-tinged melancholy too rarely relieved by something more impassioned or invigorating.” The Telegraph, 14th June 2008

“Another irresistible volume in The English Song Series: a compilation of John Ireland which reveals the sheer breadth of emotional experience and variegated piano writing within his songs. Every word is tasted, pungently flavoured and given rigorous new life, with Iain Burnside's piano playing sentient to every second of Williams's singing.” BBC Music Magazine, July 2008 *****

“Roderick Williams is such a good singer he can make the voice part sound vocal and natural in a way not many have succeeded in doing. …the pianist, Iain Burnside, plays with a sureness of touch to match the highly skilled naturalness of Williams's singing.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2008

“Despite the popularity of 'Sea Fever' and (literally) two or three others, the songs of John Ireland are often found oddly inaccessible. Of all the acknowledged masters of English songs in the 20th century Ireland is the hardest to pin down, to identify even. It has something to do with an elusiveness about his writing for the voice. When you look at the piano parts you feel contact with a pair of hands (his) touching the keyboard; but (with few exceptions) it's hard to believe that he 'sang' the songs as he wrote. The point here is that Roderick Williams is such a good singer he can make the voice part sound vocal and natural in a way not many have succeeded in doing. The songs are high for baritone, low for tenor, and they are written in a way that seems not to know of the difficulties of passing from one area of the voice to another or returning to a particular region with uncomfortable persistency. For Roderick Williams such difficulties seem hardly to exist. The listener's task eases proportionately.
Before going further, it should be said that the pianist, Iain Burnside, plays with a sureness of touch to match the highly skilled naturalness of Williams's singing. And it has to be added that Williams still does not seem to be a communicator in song in the sense that we can see the images flash before him (Terfel-like) as he sings the words. Sometimes, as in The Vagabond (Masefield, not Stevenson) and If there weredreams to sell, he catches the mood extraordinarily well even so. Williams and Burnside find a clearer feeling for Ireland's anxious tenderness and uneasy joy than in any previous recital of his songs.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

BBC Music Magazine

Choral & Song Choice - July 2008

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The English Song Series Volume 17 - Alwyn

The English Song Series Volume 17 - Alwyn


Mirage: A Song Cycle for Baritone and Piano

Nocturnes for Baritone and Piano

World Première Recording

Seascapes: Four Songs for Soprano, Treble Recorder and Piano

Invocations: A Song Cycle

Slum Song

World Première Recording

Elin Manahan Thomas (soprano), Jeremy Huw Williams (baritone), John Turner (treble recorder) & Iain Burnside (piano)

William Alwyn composed prolifically in virtually all genres; orchestral, chamber, vocal and instrumental. His major works for the voice were composed during the latter part of his career, between 1965 and 1980, and include four of the song-cycles recorded here.

“…performances are never less than convincing, especially Elin Manahan Thomas's bright, pure soprano interweaving exquisitely with John Turner's treble recording and Iain Burnside's piano in Seascape…” BBC Music Magazine, March 2008 *****

“Jeremy Huw Williams brings conspicuous ardour and intelligence to the task in hand… Elin Manahan Thomas sings with chaste purity and unfailing accuracy… Iain Burnside proffers immaculate support. …this is music of strong appeal which should hopefully win the composer new admirers.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2008

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The English Song Series Volume 12 - Finzi 1

The English Song Series Volume 12 - Finzi 1


I Said to Love, Op. 19b

(Words by Thomas Hardy)

Let Us Garlands Bring, Op. 18

(Words by Shakespeare)

Before and After Summer, Op. 16

(Words by Thomas Hardy)

Roderick Williams (baritone), Iain Burnside (piano)

“You would have to look hard for a better introduction to Finzi… The songs are the core of his achievement… Roderick Williams's elegant and delicate performances reveal the heart of this music without forcing anything - and mercifully without that coyness that often mars Finzi performances. And Iain Burnside is an excellent partner…” BBC Music Magazine, June 2005 *****

BBC Music Magazine

Choral & Song Choice - June 2005

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The English Song Series Volume 10 - Britten: Folk Song Arrangements 1

The English Song Series Volume 10 - Britten: Folk Song Arrangements 1


Folksongs Volume 1: British Isles · Folk Songs

Folksongs Volume 2: France

Folksongs Volume 3: British Isles · Pray Goody

Folksongs Volume 4: Moore's Irish Melodies

Folksongs Volume 5: British Isles · Folk Songs

Folksongs Volume 6: England

German Folk Song

Felicity Lott (soprano), Philip Langridge (tenor), Graham Johnson (piano), Carlos Bonell (guitar), Christopher Van Kampen (cello)

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The English Song Series Volume 4 - Warlock

The English Song Series Volume 4 - Warlock


The Curlew


Peter Warlock's Fancy

Peterisms, first set

My gostly fader

Bright is the ring of words


The Cloths of Heaven

The Frostbound Wood

Bethlehem Down

Sweet and twenty

And wilt thou leave me thus?

Mr Belloc's Fancy

Peterisms, second set

The Bachelor

Away to Twiver

Captain Stratton's Fancy

Adian Thompson (tenor), Christopher Maltman (baritone), John Constable (piano)

The Duke Quartet

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The English Song Series Volume 21 - Ian Venables

The English Song Series Volume 21 - Ian Venables

Venables, I:

On the Wings of Love, Op. 38 for tenor, clarinet & piano

World Première Recording

with Richard Hosford (clarinet)

Love’s Voice, Op. 22

Midnight Lamentation, Op. 6

Break, break, break, Op. 33 No. 5

November Piano, Op. 33 No. 4

Vitae summa brevis, Op. 33 No. 3

Flying Crooked, Op. 28 No. 1

At Midnight, Op. 28 No. 2

The Hippo, Op. 33 No. 6

At Malvern, Op. 24

A Kiss, Op. 15

Andrew Kennedy (tenor) & Iain Burnside (piano)

Ian Venables is one of Britain’s foremost composers of art-song, and has a significant catalogue of vocal and chamber music to his credit.

Writing tonal music in a warm lyric vein, he has a rare gift of being able to ‘locate’ himself, believably, in a different period and absorb from it, both musically and poetically, all its fundamental beauty, while also producing works of astonishing freshness, naturalness and originality.

On the Wings of Love are settings by non-English poets, while Love’s Voice sets Venetian poetry by J. A. Symonds.

All his songs are sincere expressions of a love of poetry, combined with a profound understanding of musical and poetic tradition.

“A singer of wide, lustrous tone and striking dramatic prowess” The Times on Andrew Kennedy

“[Venables] manages to create worthwhile new artefacts within his conservative idiom. Expertly crafted, the results offer something genuinely personal and at times profound...Andrew Kennedy is the expressive, articulate tenor, and pianist Iain Burnside the outstanding accompanist.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2010 *****

“Andrew Kennedy sings both cycles with great attention to their musical and verbal detail” The Guardian, 25th November 2010 ***

“Venables’ music does seem to me to breathe a definite air of Englishness, even when he is not setting texts by English writers...The standard of performance on both discs is uniformly high with Andrew Kennedy in particular proving to be an expressive and committed advocate for Ian Venables’ songs.” MusicWeb International, April 2013

BBC Music Magazine

Choral & Song Choice - December 2010

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The English Song Series Volume 20 - George Butterworth

The English Song Series Volume 20 - George Butterworth

Butterworth, G:

A Shropshire Lad - six songs

Eleven Folk Songs from Sussex

Bredon Hill and other songs

I Will Make You Brooches

I Fear Thy Kisses


Roderick Williams (baritone) & Iain Burnside (piano)

One of England’s most distinctive composers, George Butterworth belonged to the generation of young men decimated in the Great War of 1914-1918.

His sensitive and melancholic settings of poems from A. E. Housman’s A Shropshire Lad, with their subject matter of the futility and arbitrariness of war, are small-scale masterpieces. Of particular note are the ‘Loveliest of Trees’, describing the passing of the seasons, and the ghostly and elegiac ‘Is my team ploughing?’

The Folk Songs from Sussex and settings of poems by R. L. Stevenson, Shelley and Wilde, whose subject matter revolves around flirtation, love, courtship, marriage and desertion, are no less notable for their attention to detail, linguistic nuance and delicate, economical piano writing.

“Roderick Williams [is] rapidly becoming the voice of this repertoire - and not without reason.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2010 *****

“Williams, accompanied by Iain Burnside, proves a winning advocate, thanks partly to his crisp, fresh baritone, but mainly because of the way he distinguishes between the character of each song, so that this recital never loses momentum.” Financial Times, 3rd July 2010 ***

“Williams's engagingly fresh delivery, secure technique, eloquent turn of phrase and variety of tone are a joy throughout, as is his crystal-clear diction. Burnside, too, is at his customarily unmannered, attentive best, the crispness and poise of his pianism a pleasure to encounter.” Gramophone Magazine, Awards Issue 2010

“The wonderful refinement and care with every morsel of text that Williams has shown in his earlier contributions to this series pay dividends here again – his musical poise and sheer beauty of tone in the very first phrase of Loveliest of Trees sets the standard for the 11 songs that follow, and Burnside is a model partner.” The Guardian, 1st July 2010 *****

“In a vivid musical partnership with pianist Iain Burnside, Roderick Williams captures the mix of jauntiness and melancholy, adding tender flashes of wit.” The Observer, 4th July 2010

“Their qualities of melancholic reverie and suppressed yearning are quite beautifully rendered” The Telegraph, 16th July 2010 *****

GGramophone Awards 2011

Shortlisted - Solo Vocal

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The English Song Series Volume 16 - Finzi Tenor Songs

The English Song Series Volume 16 - Finzi Tenor Songs


A Young Man's Exhortation, Op. 14

Part I & 2. (Words by Thomas Hardy)

Till Earth Outwears, Op. 19

(Words by Thomas Hardy)

Oh Fair to See, Op. 13

“John Mark Ainsley's approach to music like this suggests that he comes to Finzi without any of the usual preconceptions. What he finds here… is an intensely musical feeling for words that's every bit as remarkable as Benjamin Britten's, plus a responsiveness to poetic atmosphere that enriches the texts without adding anything superfluous. Ainsley and his accompanist Iain Burnside respond to these qualities as though it were second nature to them. Singing and playing are rhythmically supple and lovingly attentive to detail...” BBC Music Magazine, Proms 2007 *****

“John Mark Ainsley certainly has more "ring" than most. There is a considerable sense of power in reserve, which makes his judicious use of it particularly effective. His virtues are regularly evident in these songs of Finzi, together with good, clear diction and a thoughtful expressiveness.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2007

BBC Music Magazine

Choral & Song Choice

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