Kathryn Rudge (mezzo-soprano), Christopher Glynn (piano)
Somm Recordings SOMMCD 0192 66:05 mins
Nellie Melba, Joan Hammond, John McCormack – once upon a time the songs of Eric Coates were sung and recorded by the world’s most prominent artists. Nowadays they are roundly neglected, which is one reason why this interesting new anthology is welcome.
Another is the warm, empathetic advocacy of Liverpudlian singer Kathryn Rudge. Her creamy, generous mezzo-soprano affectionately cossets the languorous melody of ‘In a Sleepy Lagoon’ (the theme tune of Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, with words), and caresses the delicate ‘Bird Songs at Eventide’. In songs which seem perilously sentimental to the modern ear – ‘The Fairy Tales of Ireland’ and ‘The Green Hills of Somerset’ are two – Rudge is deft at dialing back the whimsy, and distilling genuine emotion. Her excellent diction is particularly useful in ‘Reuben Ranzo’, a jaunty story-song whose comic turns of fate are colourfully painted. The Four Old English Songs have texts by Shakespeare, and show Coates to be considerably more than a writer of facile parlour melodies. Rudge’s vibrant interpretation makes a persuasive case for them, and Christopher Glynn’s fluid accompaniment is a model of supportive sensitivity.
Texts are printed in the booklet, and Jeremy Dibble’s authoritative essay sets the songs in context. A valuable issue.