Songs by Bowden, A Hughes, Hoddinott, Rhian Samuel, Huw Watkins, Grace Williams etc
Rebecca Evans, Susan Bullock, Elin Manahan Thomas, Natalya Romaniw (soprano), Elgan Llŷr Thomas (tenor), Gareth Brynmor John (baritone), Catrin Finch (harp), Andrew Matthews-Owen (piano)
Ty Cerdd TCR 031 71:37 mins
Wales has long been famed for its vibrant singing culture. This excellent disc of contemporary Welsh song, featuring a glittering roster of Welsh singers, affirms that this tradition is very much alive and kicking.
The album opens with a clutch by Dilys Elwyn-Edwards (1918-2012), perhaps the most acclaimed of all 20th-century Welsh song composers. Her richly melodic works are now staples of the form and the four featured, including a beautiful lullaby-like setting of Yeats’s ‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’, are sung with marvellous full tone and expression by soprano Rebecca Evans. Rhian Samuel’s ‘Yr Alarch’ (The Swan) for solo soprano offers a potent contrast to this more lyrical style and is performed with real bravura by Elin Manahan Thomas. Samuel’s ingenious setting of this anonymous 14th-century poem offers a striking musical evocation of the swan in all its guises, from soaring arcs of melody to pattering snippets of exploratory vocalisation. Other highlights include Huw Watkins’s mesmerising ‘Eyes look into the well’, sung with haunting beauty by Elgan Llŷr Thomas, and Alun Hoddinott’s ‘Medieval Carol’ which receives a particularly sumptuous reading from Gareth Brynmor John.
Pianist Andrew Matthews-Owen deserves special commendation for his excellent performance and curating of this well-recorded disc.