Britten, Finzi, Howells, Parry, Quilter, Stanford, Gurney, Vaughan Williams & Warlock

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Britten,Finzi,Gurney,Howells,Parry,Quilter,Stanford,Vaughan Williams & Warlock
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: on This Island
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: Lynne Dawson (soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Lynne Dawson’s own introduction to this collection of 20th-century English song explains the foundation of her approach to singing. She just tries to ‘mean it’. It’s an approach that certainly works here, even where a song’s idealistic (or perhaps wistful) Romantic idyll seems too far-fetched for our day. Her sense of bursting joie de vivre, for instance, in Parry’s ‘My heart is like a singing bird’, is irrepressible and infectious, thanks to her radiantly trumpeting high register. But throughout its range, and at all dynamic levels, the voice has an appealingly shining quality, just as affective in the austere opening of Stanford’s ‘La belle dame sans merci’ as in the poignant intensity of Gurney’s ‘Sleep’, the tenderness of Vaughan Williams’s ‘Silent Noon’ or the ardent passions of Quilter’s ‘Fair House of Joy’ and ‘My Life’s Delight’. Not everything is of similar flavour, however. There’s Stanford at his most unexpectedly quirky, writing under the pseudonym Karel Drofnatski in an effortless parody of Grieg, Mendelssohn, Bach and others in the course of setting three Edward Lear limericks (and a fourth ‘Limmerich ohne Worte’). That provides a bridge of a kind to Britten’s early Auden cycle On This Island, brilliant real-life poetry set to equally brilliant music whose colours and moods, no matter how simple the means, go beyond anything else on this disc. Fine work from the pianist Malcolm Martineau, as usual. Stephen Pettitt