The Complete Butterworth Songbook

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COMPOSERS: Butterworth
LABELS: Stone Records
WORKS: Complete Songs: Six Songs from A Shropshire Lad; Folk Songs from Sussex; Love Blows as the Wind Blows; Bredon Hill and Other Songs etc; plus bonus film
PERFORMER: Mark Stone (baritone), Stephen Barlow (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 5060192780024

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 Butterworth, yet another World War I casualty, left orchestral compositions such as The Banks of Green Willow which suggest he might otherwise have rivalled his friend Vaughan Williams. His songs, though, also have a haunting, poignant quality that reflects the poet he set most, AE Housman – although, unlike some, he catches Housman’s sardonic edge, for example in ‘Think no more, lad’.

His ‘Is my team ploughing?’ is more sentimental than VW’s, however, and leaves in the rather bathetic football verses that VW wisely cut (so enraging Housman!). Again, Stevenson’s ‘I will make you brooches’ emerges far less magical than VW’s. Much more interesting are the two groups of Sussex folksongs, melodies chosen and arranged with deceptive simplicity, and the less folk-oriented WE Henley cycle ‘Love Blows as the Wind Blows’.

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Singers such as Sir Thomas Allen and Bryn Terfel have recorded many of these songs alongside those by other composers. Mark Stone’s resonant baritone doesn’t have quite their range of colour or expression, but he’s still a fine performer, well supported by Barlow – and a thoughtful one, as his sleeve notes confirm, despite insistently ‘explaining’ every song. An engaging video snippet of Butterworth himself morris-dancing in 1912 proved troublesome to access; seek advice on Stone’s website. Michael Scott Rohan