Britten: Complete Scottish Songs

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WORKS: Complete Scottish Songs: A Birthday Hansel, Op. 92; Who are these Children?, Op. 84; Four Burns Songs (arr. Colin Matthews) etc
PERFORMER: Mark Wilde (tenor), Lucy Wakeford (harp), David Owen Norris (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 8.572706


It would take a tenor of greater colouring skills than Mark Wilde to sustain a programme of this sort. Tonal fatigue sets in during the central strand of folksongs, with nothing like the strength Peter Pears always conjured in The Bonny Earl of Moray and Ca’ the Yowes. Not that the song cycles are entirely without muscle: the ‘Hey-augh’s towards the end of the Burns garland for the Queen Mother, A Birthday Hansel, are certainly robust. But ‘Who are these Children?’, the eponymous climactic song of the otherwise epigrammatic William Soutar settings, needs more drive from both pianist – the otherwise lucid David Owen Norris – and singer. In the dying falls that grace the final Soutar poem, ‘The Auld Aik’s Doun’, Wilde makes his one, haunting departure from his bright, clear tone.


A spirited Scot himself, he makes the most of the quirkiest Burns poems – My Hoggie, an elegy to a ewe, is unforgettable – but misses the line and the easy ornaments of a song like My Early Walk. Here, the glory belongs to superb harpist Lucy Wakeford, who produces a range of spectral colours and half-voices that the piano can’t manage. David Nice