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Donald Swann: Songs

Donald Swann: Songs


Swann, D:

A collection of songs

Roderick Williams (baritone)

Five colourisations of Emily Dickinson

Dame Felicity Lott (soprano)

Two sonnets by Edna St Vincent Millay

Roderick Williams (baritone)

Stopping by woods

Kathryn Rudge (mezzo)

Two poems by Thomas Hardy

John Mark Ainsley (tenor)

Four lyrics from In memoriam

John Mark Ainsley (tenor), Roderick Williams (baritone)

Two poems by Christina Rossetti

Dame Felicity Lott (soprano)

Dark rose of my heart

John Mark Ainsley (tenor)

An invite to eternity

Roderick Williams (baritone)

The harlot’s house

John Mark Ainsley (tenor)

Six songs to poems by William Blake

Roderick Williams (baritone)

Ya vas lyubil 'I loved you once'

John Mark Ainsley (tenor)

She is all harmony, all wonder

John Mark Ainsley (tenor)

Some people's dreams

Kathryn Rudge (mezzo)

Marguerite

Kathryn Rudge (mezzo)

A red, red rose

John Mark Ainsley (tenor)

It was a lover, and his lass

Kathryn Rudge (mezzo)

See, dearest, how the rose

Kathryn Rudge (mezzo)

Arcades

John Mark Ainsley (tenor)

We'll go no more a-roving

John Mark Ainsley (tenor)

Longing

Kathryn Rudge (mezzo)

Oh, why are the roses so pale?

Kathryn Rudge (mezzo)

Old songs of lost love

Kathryn Rudge (mezzo)

In the mist

Kathryn Rudge (mezzo)

Raiders' dawn

John Mark Ainsley (tenor)

The youth of the heart

Roderick Williams (baritone)

He wishes for the cloths of heaven

Dame Felicity Lott (soprano)

Bilbo's Last Song

Roderick Williams (baritone), Dame Felicity Lott (soprano)


Christopher Glynn (piano)

Read our exclusive interview with Christopher Glynn about the recording here.

Swann but no Flanders: this economically priced collection celebrates the unique talents of a gifted songwriter whose settings of poets from Burns to Betjeman are ripe for revival. The quartet of distinguished singers is luxury casting.

“this is a continually fascinating and diverse selection...The real star of the show is Christopher Glynn, for whom the project has evidently been a labour of love. The detail and colour of his playing (to say nothing of the way he meets the many technical challenges Swann presents with a knowing wink) in the more than two hours of accompaniments is a fine achievement.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2017

“There are some surprises: Ainsley delivers a passionate Russian number, I loved you once, a Pushkin setting that wouldn’t disgrace Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninov. The real revelation, however, is the talent shown by the newcomer of the singing quartet: Rudge, a rising mezzo-soprano with rich tone, who brings more ardour and less archness to the material than her more fêted colleagues.” Sunday Times, 6th August 2017

“the quality of Swann’s craft is clear and Glynn points up every careful detail of some colourful piano writing...If there’s a real revelation, however, it’s the talent shown by the newcomer of the singing quartet: Rudge, a rising mezzo-soprano with rich tone, who brings more ardour and less archness to the material than her more fêted colleagues.” The Times, 28th July 2017 ***

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Hyperion - CDA68172

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Music for Remembrance

Music for Remembrance


Duruflé:

Requiem, Op. 9

Roderick Williams (baritone), Christine Rice (mezzo-soprano)

Howells:

Take him, earth, for cherishing

Moore, P:

Three Prayers of Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Tavener:

The peace that surpasseth understanding

Vaughan Williams:

Lord, Thou has been our refuge


This latest album from Westminster Abbey is a programme of memorial music composed in England and France in the shadow of two World Wars.

The main feature is Duruflé’s Requiem, one of the best-loved of all works of the twentieth century, and given an astoundingly beautiful performance here, enhanced by distinguished soloists Christine Rice and Roderick Williams.

The Requiem is many ways a paradoxical work, based on plainsong but with Durufle’s sensuous harmonies suffusing every note with feeling: ‘This Requiem is not an ethereal work which sings of detachment from human concerns’, he said. ‘It reflects, in the unchanging form of Christian prayer, the anguish of man faced with the mystery of his final end.’ It is a work of unimpeachable integrity, a miraculous synthesis of the old and the new.

Throughout the past century the Abbey has been a focus of national remembrance on Armistice Day, and ‘O God, our help in ages past’—the ‘great ceremonial hymn of the English nation’, quoted in Vaughan Williams’ Lord, thou has been our refuge—has been a constant and reassuring presence, from the Burial Service of the Unknown Warrior on 11 November 1920 to the Service commemorating the Passing of the World War One Generation on 11 November 2009. The anthem by John Tavener recorded here was composed for that service, and all the other English music has some special significance in this place: a statue of Dietrich Bonhoeffer stands above the west door of Westminster Abbey (one of the ten twentieth-century Christian martyrs installed in the niches there in 1998), while the ashes of Herbert Howells and Ralph Vaughan Williams are buried in the church where their music has contributed so much to daily services and great state occasions.

“The two soloists are excellent. Roderick Williams shows his usual sensitivity not just to the music but also to the text...The Westminster choir gives a fine account of the wonderful, eloquent Howells anthem... James O’Donnell’s excellent choir is on top form throughout this recital.” MusicWeb International, 7th November 2014

“Roderick Williams features widely in remembrance recordings this year...and here in Duruflé’s transcendent Requiem, his beautiful unforced baritone perfect for the mysterious Domine Jesu Christe, with the strings of the Britten Sinfonia adding an elegant sheen in the expansive acoustic of the abbey.” The Observer, 9th November 2014

“This is an exquisite performance of the Durufle Requiem...The playing of the Britten Sinfonia is superb, Robert Quinney's fluid, immensely colourful organ-playing a joy to behold and Roderick Williams a supremely compelling baritone soloist...O'Donnell moulds and shapes every moment with infinite care...as a beautiful listening experience it is in a class of its own.” Gramophone Magazine, November 2014

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Hyperion - CDA68020

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Bach, J S: St John Passion, BWV245

Bach, J S: St John Passion, BWV245


‘Layton has directed this annual St John Passion for several seasons now. His readings, which are becoming ever more dramatic and daring, have a raw intensity. It was easy to see why these concerts have become one of the highlights in London’s musical calendar’ (The Guardian)

Polyphony and Stephen Layton present their celebrated performance of Bach’s most dramatic masterpiece. Accompanied by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and a starry team of soloists, Layton directs a vivid account, the excitement of the narrative drama contrasting with heartbreaking moments of reflection.

In Ian Bostridge, we have the most iconic Evangelist of the last twenty years; an artist who is an incomparable communicator, a singer of technical brilliance, and an impassioned, experienced interpreter of Bach’s music.

Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

“[Bostridge is] a magnificent Evangelist though one aspect of his approach may not be to all tastes. He is highly expressive at all times and there are several occasions where some may feel he overdoes the expressiveness..Polyphony show vividly just what can be achieved in Bach singing by a fairly small professional choir, especially in terms of such things as flexibility, attack and agility...This desirable new recording deserves a place in the front rank.” MusicWeb International, February 2013

“Layton has honed his preferred version, but only aficionados will notice or mind. Concentrate instead on the purity of sound, the emotionally expressive yet restrained performance by all and the impeccable attention to text of the soloists. Ian Bostridge (Evangelist) lives every word of the narration but never over dramatises. Countertenor Iestyn Davies's almost disembodied account of Es ist vollbracht! (It is finished!) is unforgettable.” The Observer, 3rd March 2013

“the choral singing is wonderfully pure, buoyant and transparent...Ian Bostridge’s Evangelist, mannered and occasionally stretched but full of “narrative” character, dominates Layton’s performance” Financial Times, 9th March 2013 ***

“when Bach’s goal is mellifluous comfort, as in the final chorus, Ruht wohl, Polyphony wins hands down.” The Times, 15th March 2013 ****

“this new recording's credentials border on the unassailable...Layton's pacing is compelling - there's no mistaking the gambling fever as the soldiers cast lots for Christ's garment...[Neal Davies] reserves a melting tenderness for the utterances from the cross. It's crowned by Iestyn Davies's sublime account of 'Es ist vollbracht'...Both Carolyn Sampson's arias are priceless.” BBC Music Magazine, April 2013 ****

“this St John Passion brings to the fore the traits of style and taste that are distinguished hallmarks of Layton and the forces he gathers around him...Bostridge is the tenor Evangelist, eloquent, pure of tone, fluent and strong in communicating the import of the German narrative...The choir sings with a well-rounded sound, firm accents and with diction that brings the text crisply to life” The Telegraph, 22nd March 2013 *****

“about as state-of-the-art a Bach Passion recording as you'll hear...Take as read the urgency, clarity, balance and delamatory unanimity of the chorus...Layton's reality is about cultivating the focus of each sentiment with supreme corporate executancy...Bostridge is the master story-teller who surveys all about him.” Gramophone Magazine, May 2013

“it’s remarkable simply because it’s practically perfect in every way...though [Bostridge has] been singing the Passions for over a decade he still sounds as if he’s telling this familiar story for the first time...The soloists, too, are all perfectly cast...But it’s Iestyn Davies who really takes the laurels.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, 18th February 2013

“Stephen Layton directs this intense, dramatic reading with intelligence and integrity, ably assisted by an excellent team of soloists...Layton’s small choir, Polyphony, responds alertly to the changing dramatic demands...The OAE plays with style and authority, and Hyperion’s recording is spacious, full, clear and detailed.” Early Music Today

Presto Disc of the Week

18th February 2013

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Recommended Recording

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - May 2013

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Hyperion - CDA67901/2

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Bairstow - Choral Music

Bairstow - Choral Music


Bairstow:

Jesu the very thought

Blessed City, heavenly Salem

Evening Service in D for choir & organ

Lord, thou hast been our refuge

If the Lord had not helped me

Let all mortal flesh keep silence

Evening Service in G for choir & organ

Five Poems of the Spirit for solo baritone, choir & orchestra

Save us, O Lord


Paul Provost (organ) & Roderick Williams (baritone)

The Choir of St John’s College, Cambridge & Britten Sinfonia, David Hill (Director of Music)

“…Bairstow could hardly have finer advocates than David Hill's St John's Choir, beautiful in tone and balance… admirably clear in enunciation, well supported by rhythmic organ playing, and outstandingly well recorded. And the late cycle of Five Poems of the Spirit, given luxury casting with the superb Roderick Williams as solo baritone and the firm support of the Cambridge-based Britten Sinfonia, does give the disc life beyond the choir stalls.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2007 ****

“An excellent disc in regard both to the standard of performance and to the selection of Bairstow's music. And to that should be added straight away the quality of recorded sound, for in choral music of this type it is particularly important to allow for enough reverberance and sense of space without loss of clarity; also to balance choir and organ so as to keep a focus upon the singers and their words while enabling the organist to exploit the full range of the instrument in tone and volume.
The recommendation for this new issue is confirmed most decisively by the inclusion of the FivePoems of the Spirit. Completed in 1944, it remained unpublished till after Bairstow's death.
The orchestration was provided by Sir Ernest Bullock, and with its baritone solos and (largely) early-17th-century texts it stands, not unworthily, alongside Vaughan Williams's Five MysticalSongs. Particularly memorable is the fourth, Raleigh's 'Give me my scallop-shell of quiet', but all are attractive. Roderick Williams is the ideally suited soloist and the Britten Sinfonia do justice to a delightful score. In the accompanied anthems and services the organ parts are played with skilful registration by Paul Provost, and the choir sing throughout with their customary expressiveness and variety of colour: exquisitely (for instance) in the unaccompanied Jesu, the very thought of Thee.”
Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010

“An excellent disc in regard both to the standard of performance and to the selection of Bairstow's music. …Five Poems of the Spirit… remained unpublished till after Bairstow's death. Roderick Williams is the ideally suited soloist and the Britten Sinfonia do justice to a delightful score.” Gramophone Magazine, September 2007

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Hyperion - CDA67497

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Michael Head: Songs

Michael Head: Songs


Head, M:

Dear delight

Oh, for a March wind

Sweet chance

Tewkesbury Road

The Estuary

Limehouse Reach

Over the rim of the moon

October Valley

The Garden Seat

Fox Gloves

The Viper

Had I a golden pound

Lean out of the window

A Piper

A green cornfield

Love’s Lament

Star Candles

The Little Road to Bethlehem

Money O!

Songs of Venice (3)

My sword for the King

You cannot dream things lovelier


Ailish Tynan (soprano), Catherine Wyn-Rogers (mezzo-soprano), Roderick Williams (baritone) & Christopher Glynn (piano)

Who is Michael Head? His name may be largely forgotten but the music here forms part of the rich seam of English song in the manner of Quilter, Gurney and Warlock. Born in 1900, he worked modestly as a singer, pianist, teacher, broadcaster and adjudicator, writing his first song (The ships of Arcady) aged 19, studying at the Royal Academy of Music, where he became a professor of piano aged 27, remaining there for the rest of his career.

At the centre of his composing life were songs, which he used to perform as a kind of one-man band, accompanying himself at the piano. Out of more than 100, here’s a choice selection: setting poets such as Walter de la Mare, John Masefield and Christina Rossetti, many of them focus on the pleasures of England—its flora and fauna, its changing seasons and lyrical landscapes.

They’re sung by three of the brightest stars in today’s vocal firmament, Ailish Tynan (making her Hyperion debut), Catherine Wyn-Rogers and Roderick Williams, accompanied by Christopher Glynn, who adds Head to his previous recordings of Reger and Brahms.

“[Wyn-Rogers] is laudable in the very sad, well-named Love's Lament...The two lustiest songs, 'Money, O!' and 'My sword for the King' are allotted to Roderick Williams, who brings bold vocalism to both...Christopher Glynn brings out the different colours in accordance with each song, from crashing chords to gurgling gruppetti, sparking little scales to vigorous outpourings or soft sweetness.” International Record Review, January 2012

“Head makes sure England’s fields are forever green, even when the mood is tinged with sadness: not for him the slightest inelegance. The apportioning of songs to soprano, mezzo and baritone gives the recital an easy pace. Williams’ flawless diction makes his the pick of the bunch.” Financial Times, 14th January 2012 ****

“as the meticulous performances by these singers...demonstrate, Head was acutely sensitive to words. There are settings of Masefield and Yeats, Hardy, Joyce and Christina Rossetti here, and in every song each phrase is perfectly balanced, its meaning directly communicated, its accompaniment supremely tactful.” The Guardian, 12th January 2012 ***

“the enterprise of Hyperion knows no bounds. Here is a disc devoted to songs by Michael Head, who is not likely to be known to many...Singers and pianists perform with conviction and style. If you can, start with 'Limehouse Reach', which has the charm and simplicity of Vaughan Williams's 'Linden Lea', and take it from there.” Gramophone Magazine, March 2012

“Head created the most inventive and sympathetic writing for voice and piano, in asymmetrical, free-flowing, artful settings of poets such as Walter de la Mare, John Masefield and Christina Rossetti. His music heightens their acute observations of the natural world, expressing their appetite for the present, fleeting moment...A revelation.” BBC Music Magazine, March 2012 ****

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Hyperion - CDA67899

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