WORKS: The Noël Coward Songbook: Songs
PERFORMER: Ian Bostridge (tenor), Sophie Daneman (soprano), Jeffrey Tate (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 57374 2
The acclaimed interpreter of Schubert, Schumann and Britten now turns his attention to Noël Coward, whose ‘post-Great War grittiness’, writes the singer, ‘[reminds] me of one of my favourite German composers, Kurt Weill’. Caveat emptor. This is Coward sung by ‘Ian Bostridge (tenor)’. On first hearing, as an alternative to Coward’s own peerless recordings (available on Naxos Nostalgia), it takes some getting used to, combined with Jeffrey Tate’s self-effacing accompaniments, placed too distantly from the soloist. Corin Buckeridge’s anachronistic piano arrangements lend disobliging harmonic and rhythmic muddle, instead of support, to Coward’s fluent melodic lines, and the predominant mood (swoony) and tempo (slow) are not varied by verses being sung in strict time rather than rubato.
But I gradually warmed to Bostridge’s take on Coward. He has an extraordinarily eloquent and beautiful voice which, when used simply and without fussy phrasing, brings genuine poignancy to numbers like ‘The Dream is Over’ and ‘Let’s Say Goodbye’. There are some stylish and pleasant duets with soprano Sophie Daneman (‘Something to do with Spring’ is a delight). Deadpan comedy, though, is not Bostridge’s bag – ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen’ gives rise to absolutely no hilarity or mirth, underlined by his despairing expression on the disc cover. Jeremy Nicholas