LABELS: SRS Recordings
PERFORMER: Janet Johnston (soprano); Ray Holder (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: SRS OG 2050
This is a pity. Madeleine Dring is a neglected talent, a gifted composer who studied at the Royal College of Music with Herbert Howells and occasionally with Vaughan Williams and Gordon Jacob, and who died in 1977 aged just 53. Her output includes many songs and much piano music (including some, I remember from personal experience, for absolute beginners). Her idiom is conservative but harmonically piquant, as these settings of words by Herrick, Shakespeare, Dryden, Sidney, and lesser-known English poets like John Sheffield, Thomas Otway, Thomas Moore, Michael Drayton and Michael Armstrong, show.
Soprano Janet Johnston (she is also an actor) is not, however, her ideal interpreter. Her voice is monochromatic, restricted in flexibility and dynamic control, often not quite in the middle of the note, and she allows insufficient space to her phrasing, ignoring the expressive sonority of the word itself. Ray Holder provides competent accompaniment on an instrument that doesn’t sound very good. The recording itself is awful, combining over-close miking with a horrible echo that seems to be applied only to the singer’s line. Stephen Pettitt