COMPOSERS: Coates,etc,Haydn Wood,Murray,Sheldon,Sullivan
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: More Songs My Father Taught Me
WORKS: Songs by Coates, Haydn Wood, Murray, Sheldon, Sullivan,
PERFORMER: Thomas Allen (baritone)Malcolm Martineau (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67374
It is easy for some to mock the Victorian parlour ballad, but it then becomes rather hard to explain the wide and enduring appeal of the genre (‘The Holy City’, for instance, sold 50,000 copies a year at the height of its popularity). If ‘Roses of Picardy’, ‘Because’ and ‘I’ll Sing Thee Songs of Araby’ had German or French lyrics would fewer singers be embarrassed to include them in their recitals today (‘foreign’ frequently being assumed to signify ‘profundity’)? Thomas Allen, to his eternal credit, is above all that, unafraid to open his heart, mind and wonderful voice to these striking lyrics and memorable tunes of the home-entertainment era. The direct, unfussy delivery, the obvious affection and heart-warming ease which he brings to all 29 ballads in this second selection (the first was reviewed in May 2002) are the marks of a truly great artist. You may find some of them unexpectedly moving (try ‘I Heard You Singing’ and ‘The Old Brigade’).
At a purely personal level, it is a joy to hear the repertoire of my maternal grandfather (a fine amateur baritone) sung with such sincerity. He would certainly have appreciated the refined and eloquent accompaniment of Malcolm Martineau rather than the fumbling approximation of his regular partner, Mrs Clench. Jeremy Nicholas