Roderick Williams, with his frequent accompanist Susie Allan, continues his welcome foray through English song. Blending familiar and less so, the programme is always interesting. Newcomers may find Williams, with his almost tenorial top, less full-voiced and sturdy than distinguished precursors like Sirs Thomas Allen and Bryn Terfel. Yet he has a mellow, refined tone, distinctively poetic delivery, and is keenly sensitive to the words. And with Allan’s lively support, he can unleash sufficient vigour in the emotional contrasts of Butterworth’s Shropshire Lad songs, in particular Is my team ploughing? ’s haunted unease. He does likewise in the heartier elements of Ireland’s Hardy and Masefield settings, and Warlock's sprightly Jillian of Berry.
Williams doesn't quite catch the heroic defiance of Vaughan Williams's Vagabond, and Gurney's less boisterous Captain Stretton's Fancy probably suits him better than Warlock's version would. But the other, deeply felt Gurney songs are particularly striking, as are Venables's Hardy and Graves settings, contemporary but very much in the classic manner.
Vaughan Williams's idyllic Silent Moon, plangent Quilter and lyrical Moeran are equally impressive. Britten's Down by the Sally Gardens and The Ploughboy probably can't help recalling Peter Pears, but the underrated Finzi Shakespearian group which follows again brings out Williams’s darker shadings and nuances, and Allan makes much of the piano part.
Michael Scott Rohan