Britten: Complete Folksong Arrangements

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Complete Folksong Arrangements
PERFORMER: Lorna Anderson, Regina Nathan (soprano), Jamie MacDougall (tenor); Malcolm Martineau (piano), Bryn Lewis (harp), Craig Ogden (guitar)
This two-CD set comprises all Britten’s 51 folksong arrangements. They were originally composed for particular performers such as Peter Pears, Julian Bream and Osian Ellis. The folksongs are British, French, Irish and American. Each arrangement bears Britten’s imprint. The piano parts are particularly striking and inventive; for example, ‘Down by the Salley Gardens’ has cold and austere ostinato piano chords for the girl’s ‘snow-white feet’ and a tellingly severe modulation at the word ‘foolish’ intensifies the lover’s regret. Malcolm Martineau excels throughout. Jamie MacDougall sings the majority of the songs with spirit and eloquence, sensitively colouring his voice to the mood of each. So, too, does Lorna Anderson, with a great expressive range; she is moving and intense in ‘O Waly, Waly’, tenderly maternal in the Scottish ‘O can ye sew cushions?’ with its tongue-tripping chorus and a charming and wistful shepherdess in ‘Fileuse’. The harp of Bryn Lewis magically evokes the flight of the swallow and the flow of the river in ‘She’s like the swallow’. Craig Ogden’s jaunty guitar accompaniment to ‘Sailor-Boy’ is quite intoxicating, while its eerie murmuring heightens the final verse of the darkly enigmatic ‘The shooting of his dear’. Ian Lace