English Song Series

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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.

“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

“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 ***

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

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

GGramophone Awards 2011

Shortlisted - Solo Vocal

Naxos English Song Series - 8572426



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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

Naxos English Song Series - 8570467



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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

Naxos English Song Series - 8570201



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The English Song Series Volume 15 - Finzi 2

The English Song Series Volume 15 - Finzi 2


Earth and Air and Rain, Op. 15

To a Poet, Op. 13a

By Footpath and Stile, Op. 2

“Roderick Williams… is an intensely musical singer, acutely responsive to the sound and meaning of words, but also his approach to the English Romantic song repertoire is… revelatory. …Williams… is a rich variety. In lyrical numbers like 'Lizbie Browne' the melodic and emotional unfolding is sustained beautifully without smoothing over the subtler nuances of Hardy's words of Finzi's setting. ...pianist Iain Burnside is just about ideal as a musical partner, his playing full of vitality and wistful tenderness.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2006 *****

Building a Library

First Choice - December 2006

Naxos English Song Series - 8557963



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The English Song Series Volume 14 - Vaughan Williams 2

The English Song Series Volume 14 - Vaughan Williams 2

Vaughan Williams:

Songs of Travel

The House of Life

Linden Lea

Four Poems by Fredegond Shove

Roderick Williams (baritone), Iain Burnside (piano)

“Naxos' English Song Series comes up trumps again - here Roderick Williams delivers sensitive performances of the two song-cycles Songs of Travel and The House of Life. An especial highlight for me was the penultimate number in the former, Bright is the Ring of Words - here sung brightly indeed!” David Smith, Presto Classical, June 2014

“A splendidly vigorous performance by Roderick Williams of the superb Songs of Travel cycle, ideally suited to the clear, clean tone of this exceptional baritone.” The Guardian

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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)

Naxos English Song Series - 8557220-21

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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

Naxos English Song Series - 8557115



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The English Song Series Volume 3 - Vaughan Williams 1

The English Song Series Volume 3 - Vaughan Williams 1

Vaughan Williams:

Searching for Lambs


Joy, Shipmate, Joy!

Lord, come away

Come Love, come Lord

Five Mystical Songs

On Wenlock Edge

Dirge for Fidele

It was a Lover and his Lass

The Lawyer

The splendour falls

The Water Mill


Silent Noon

“Anthony Rolfe Johnson and Simon Keenlyside both have ideal voices for this repertoire - the performances are deeply felt.” David Smith, Presto Classical, June 2014

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The English Song Series Volume 23 - Jonathan Dove Song Cycles

The English Song Series Volume 23 - Jonathan Dove Song Cycles


Out of Winter

Cut My Shadow

World Première Recording


All You Who Sleep Tonight

World Première Recording

Claire Booth (soprano), Patricia Bardon (mezzo-soprano), Nicky Spence (tenor) & Andrew Matthews-Owen (piano)

Andrew Matthews-Owen talks to Presto's David Smith about the recording here.

Jonathan Dove is one of Britain’s most resourceful and versatile contemporary composers, whose affinity for vocal setting is especially striking. From the operatic canvas of his acclaimed Flight to his song cycles, his acutely perceptive approach to texts is unmistakeable. Out of Winter, written in collaboration with Dove, is the late Sir Robert Tear’s poetic response to Thomas Hardy’s Winter Words. Cut My Shadow is a powerful and harrowing setting of three Lorca texts notable for a sense of constant unease and longing for a homeland. All You Who Sleep Tonight, to poems by Vikram Seth, is elegant, moving, and witty whilst Ariel explores Shakespeare’s elusive character from The Tempest in a rôle for unaccompanied soprano.

“[Dove] is one of the most vivid painters of words in music today... That much becomes clear with Out of Winter...Dove's 20-minute cycle, characterfully sung by Nicky Spence, casts a spell - not least in the ecstatic finale, where pianist Andrew Matthews-Owen contributes to the theatrical atmosphere...Claire Booth, unaccompanied, animates Ariel's bewitching narrative, whilst mezzo Patricia Bardon explores the amorous moods, alternately playful and sultry, of All You Who Sleep Tonight.” Financial Times, August 2014 ****

“Apart from his excellent booklet notes, Andrew Matthews-Owen is a superlative pianist, and he is well treated by the resonant recording. Throughout these cycles one is grateful to encounter a composer whose writing for the voice, and his understanding of its technique, is so approachable.” MusicWeb International, 13th October 2014

“If you want to find out what has happened to English song since Britten, this is as good a place to start as any...Spence puts [Out of Winter] across with Pears-like point...Matthews-Owen is the supportive accompanist. Here are four highly imaginative new song-cycles, each deserving of a life of its own.” Gramophone Magazine, October 2014

“Matthews-Owen is an immaculate accompanist, showing a particularly clean pair of fingers in the dashing virtuosity of Song III. The unaccompanied Ariel...is like opera without the orchestra, and soprano Claire Booth shows a technical accomplishment comparable to Spence’s in meeting its many challenges…this is a richly stimulating recital.” BBC Music Magazine, September 2014

“It is to the credit of the three singers here and pianist Andrew Matthews-Owen that they completely understand the delicate balance between pushing an object into motion and guiding it throughout the course of its natural vector. Then they pull their hands away; and leave us wanting more. Equally noteworthy is the extent to which pianist and singer create almost orchestral sonorities…” Classical Net, September 2014

“Spence has a beautiful lyric tenor which he uses with great facility and always to expressive ends...The piano playing of Matthews-Owen is full partner in the music writing in this and the other cycles for voice and piano...I cannot imagine anyone with an interest in singing, or music for voice and piano, or young singers, or British music not responding to this.” Fanfare

“All three singers are very good, particularly Spence, but the star of [the] show is Matthews-Owen. So much of the effectiveness of these songs lies in Dove's inventive piano writing with its cross rhythms and shifting patterns.” American Record Guide

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - October 2014

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