Kitty Whately (mezzo-soprano), Gareth Brynmor John (baritone), Susie Allan (piano)
SOMM Recordings SOMMCD 0655 78:46 mins
The name Charles Villiers Stanford does not tend to bring to mind music for children. This charming and generously filled disc, including several first recordings, should help to rectify the neglect of these attractive vignettes since the composer’s death. The 38 songs are shared between mezzo-soprano Kitty Whately and baritone Gareth Brynmor John, all supported by Susie Allen’s finely-judged and responsive pianism.
Dedicated to his own children, A Child’s Garland of Songs typifies Stanford’s knack of finding seemingly effortless melodies and easy-going accompaniments. With his amiable storytelling, Brynmor John takes the lead, but is joined by Whately for three of the songs later reimagined as spirited duets. They take a book each in the posthumously published Songs from The Elfin Peddlar, Whately sunnily fresh-voiced in the first before handing over to Brynmor John’s playful ebullience for the second. These songs demonstrate Stanford’s skill at knowing when to sidestep the predictability of versification to create a masterpiece of uncomplicated musical economy.
The sets of Four Songs and Six Songs are not explicitly for children, but a guileless nature prevails, though the extraordinary ‘The Silence’ is an exception whose false ending elicits stunning radiance from Whately. A further seven individual songs from across Stanford’s career complete the disc, one that bears repeated listening.