ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Sweet Swan of Avon
WORKS: Music for Shakespeare by Dibdin, Johnston, Arne, Blake, Mathias,
PERFORMER: English Serenata
CATALOGUE NO: CDE 84301 DDD
The works of 21 composers spanning four centuries, from Thomas Arne to Howard Blake, are represented here in 32 generally genial settings of texts by Shakespeare, mostly in Elizabethan or neo-Tudor style. One exception is Sullivan’s Victorian ballad setting of ‘Orpheus with His Lute’.
The programme opens with Jamie MacDougall lustily and proudly introducing and proclaiming Charles Dibdin’s ‘The Warwickshire Lad’. Yvonne Howard is excellent, colouring her voice to suit a wide variety of styles and moods from Richard Leveridge’s tongue-in-cheek view of the melodramatic Macbeth Witches’ Scene (she really relishes ‘here’s the blood of a bat’) to Guy Woolfenden’s meltingly beautiful and romantic Welsh Song. Howard also allows us to contrast the two settings of ‘The Cuckoo Song’ (Love’s Labours Lost) by Arne and Woolfenden; Arne’s setting wickedly emphasising ‘Cuckoo… unpleasing to a married ear’!
Ilona Sekacz’s ‘You Spotted Snakes’ is a miniature jewel, imaginatively employing a second echoing voice to magical effect. Of the numerous instrumental pieces, Nigel Hess’s sweetly wistful Pavane, Raymond Leppard’s Midsummer Night’s Dream ‘Horn Calls and Interlude’ and Richard Rodney Bennett’s exotic Masque for Timon of Athens stand out. An enterprising and hugely enjoyable collection, atmospherically recorded. Ian Lace