Songs by Berlin, Gershwin, Kern, Porter, Rodgers, Weill, et al
Thomas Allen (baritone), Lucy Crowe (soprano), Stephen Higgins (piano)
Champs Hill Records CHRCD144 53:46 mins
Thomas Allen, who turned 74 in September, remains an irresistibly attractive, superb communicator. This selection from the Great American Songbook offers glorious melodies and catchy lyrics by figures like Jerome Kern, Kurt Weill, Richard Rodgers, Cole Porter, the Gershwin brothers, Lerner and Loewe, and other masters. Allen is deftly accompanied by Stephen Higgins, who savours the music’s sweetness without ever over-egging the pudding.
According to the booklet, this programme challenges the assumption that classical song or opera are inherently superior to show tunes like these. But would anyone argue otherwise? Surely, we’ve all endured flimsy plots, trite words, mawkish tunes or hackneyed harmonies in both musicals and operas. And at their best, both genres display superb craftsmanship, make incisive social commentary and give insights into the human condition. Clearly, Allen and his pianist Stephen Higgins are thoroughly enjoying themselves, Allen’s voice still sounding gloriously burnished. Lucy Crowe seems less comfortable with the vocal style but offers many beautiful moments. And although copyright costs prevented Champs Hill from providing printed texts, the diction was clear enough for me to sing along, as I did with great delight.