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Vaughan Williams: Folk Songs, Vol. 4

Mary Bevan (soprano), Nicky Spence (tenor), Roderick Williams (baritone), William Vann (piano) (Albion)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Vaughan Williams
Folk Songs, Vol. 4: Folk Songs from Newfoundland etc
Mary Bevan (soprano), Nicky Spence (tenor), Roderick Williams (baritone), William Vann (piano)
Albion ALBCD045    60:39 mins

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This volume completes Albion Records’s survey of Vaughan Williams’s respectful and often touchingly lyrical arrangements, all performed with character and artistry by these singers and above all the superbly sensitive pianism of their accompanist William Vann.

Some melodies are more familiar than others. ‘She’s like the swallow’ also appears in Britten’s final set of folksongs. Vaughan Williams’s arrangement, typical of his style, is more obviously beautiful, but rather lacks the intriguing qualities of Britten’s which – unlike the Vaughan Williams – was written to be performed as part of a complete set, and so provides more character in the melody’s accompaniment.

If this is an album best sampled in small doses rather than heard in one go, that’s no reflection at all on the singers involved: I particularly admire how tenor Nicky Spence holds attention through the eight minutes of ‘Lord Akeman’. My only other niggle is how similar baritone Roderick Williams’s voice is to Spence’s – their duo ‘Servant man and husbandman’ could do with a bit more vocal contrast, though, given the vivid personalities of these singers, this would be less of an issue if seen in a concert rather than heard on disc. In all, though, a pleasant listen which Vaughan Williams fans should have no hesitation in snapping up.

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Daniel Jaffé