COMPOSERS: Bridge,Britten & Barlow,Butterworth,Dowland,Finzi,Handel,Haydn,Ireland,Purcell,Quilter,Songs by Vaughan Williams,Warlock
LABELS: Stone Records
WORKS: Collection: English Love
PERFORMER: Mark Stone (baritone), Stephen Barlow (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 5060192780000
The thing about English song, surely, is not what it reveals about English love, so much as how it responds to the unique variety and flexibility of metre, inflection and image within English poetry. Mark Stone, with his warm, supple baritone, has done plenty of work with his accompanist, Stephen Barlow, on the songs of Roger Quilter.
Yet here, tracking English song from Dowland to Britten (and with one of Barlow’s own compositions of one of Quilter’s lost settings), he shows too little awareness of that variety.
The juxtaposition of Quilter’s ‘Love’s Philosophy’ and the Purcell/Britten ‘I attempt from Love’s sickness to fly’ shows all too starkly how Stone tends to smooth out and generalise shifting emotions, styles and idioms. He is obedient to coaching, but is essentially casual and unexcited by words.
The exception is his dramatic response to Finzi’s superb Hardy setting, ‘I said to Love’: it’s as though Stone needs a sniff of greasepaint to awaken his imagination. Hilary Finch