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Stanford: Songs of Faith, Love and Nonsense

Roderick Williams (baritone), James Way (tenor), Andrew West (piano) (SOMM)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Songs of Faith, Op. 97; Three Songs of Robert Bridges; Nonsense Rhymes; Songs from Shamus O’Brien, Op. 61; The Triumph of Love, Op. 82
Roderick Williams (baritone), James Way (tenor), Andrew West (piano)
SOMM SOMMCD 0627   78:50 mins

There are quite a few rarities here, including the 1891 Three Songs of Robert Bridges and the 1903 The Triumph of Love. The former include some of the simpler and more appealing settings, with Roderick Williams’s lucid tone, straightforward manner and ability to match words and notes helping him realise effortlessly sincere and sympathetic performances.

Partly due to overwrought texts by Stanford’s cousin, the minor poet Edmond Gore Alexander Holmes, as a whole The Triumph of Love forms a less successful collection; in them Stanford’s Brahmsian heritage is at its most thick-textured and at times overbearing – though the simplicity and unaffectedness of ‘I think that we were children’ make it a real gem. Despite the mixed quality of individual songs, tenor James Way gives The Triumph of Love eloquence and sweep, while Williams does equally well by Songs of Faith (1906), settings – again uneven – of Tennyson and Walt Whitman.

The two singers share the more attractive Four Songs from Shamus O’Brien (1896) – Stanford’s most successful opera – embodying its various male characters with dramatic vitality and conviction. They also divide between them the Nonsense Songs, settings of limericks by Edward Lear (or in one case, Anon) whose humour – mainly involving quotations from other composers – can be heavy handed. Several of them start promisingly enough, though just go on that little bit too long: but a couple at a time would go down well enough, or even just one as an encore.

Fine playing throughout from pianist Andrew West, and impressive sound.


George Hall