The Children’s Hour
Lullabies and Nursery Songs by Britten, Howells, Ives, Mahler, Schubert, R Schumann, Stanford, Warlock, etc
Gareth Brynmor John (baritone), William Vann (piano)
Champs Hill CHRCD156 65:11 mins
Composer portraits, mellow landscapes, artists caught in contemplative poses: these are the staple images of CD cover art. This new Champs Hill release, however, shows two grown men swaying happily on a swing set in a children’s playground. They are in fact the baritone Gareth Brynmor John and pianist William Vann. Both have two young children growing up at home, and this delightful programme examining childhood from a variety of angles is dedicated to them.
The whimsical performance of Charles Ives’s ‘The Children’s Hour’ which opens the recital sets high standards of interpretation, John’s mellifluous singing offset by Vann’s tenderly undulating accompaniment. John’s skills as a genial storyteller emerge impressively in Loewe’s ‘Tom der Reimer’, where his understated, intelligent pointing of text draws the listener subtly in, without heavy underlining.
John does comedy too, witness his droll take on Liza Lehmann’s ‘Henry King’, where he points the moral with deft avuncularity. Both John and Vann excel in Richard Rodney Bennett’s mini-cycle Songs before Sleep, whether in the charming catch-as-catch-can of ‘The Mouse and the Bumblebee’ or the gentler musings of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’. The ‘Lullabies and Bedtime’ section brings dreamily poised performances of Herbert Howells’s ‘Tired Tim’ and ‘Full Moon’, little known but delectable settings. Ives’s ‘Cradle Song’ is a poignant conclusion, its truncated final measures marking the closing of an infant’s eyes in slumber. Lovingly curated and performed, this is a warmly recommendable recital.