The Complete CW Orr Songbook

Album title:
The Complete CW Orr Songbook
CW Orr
Seven songs from A Shropshire Lad; Two Seventeenth Century Poems; Fain would I change that note; When the Lad for Singing Sighs; etc
Mark Stone (baritone), Simon Lepper (piano)
Stone Records
Catalogue Number:
BBC Music Magazine
The Complete CW Orr Songbook
Walton: Belshazzar's Feast; Symphony No. 1
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So why don’t we hear as much of Charles Wilfred Orr (1893-1976) as we do of Butterworth, Finzi, Gurney, Howells, Moeran and Warlock? There is usually a reason, and this first volume championing the songs of this Cheltenham born and bred, Guildhall-educated composer begins to reveal
the answer.

Orr admired German Lieder and French mélodie rather more than the English song he knew. The first track on this disc, ‘Along the field’, (one of seven songs from A Shropshire Lad) could almost be Duparc; and the second, ‘When I watch the living meet’, marks the composer out as a keen admirer of Hugo Wolf. It’s the piano writing (most sympathetically recreated by Simon Lepper) that betrays these influences rather more effectively than the less inspired, sometimes plodding word-setting.

Indeed, it is the influence of Wolf that seems to sharpen Orr’s responses and enables him to find the inner intensity of the verse he sets. But so far Orr comes over as someone who never quite found his own, distinctive voice.

Mark Stone’s baritone is not the most colourful, subtle or supple of instruments. Nevertheless, it’s undoubtedly dedicated to the clear projection of both music and text.

Hilary Finch