This Other Eden: A Landscape of English Poetry and Song

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COMPOSERS: & MacMillan; readings from Shakespeare,Barber,Berry,Britten,Clare,De la Mare,Gurney,Hardy,Head,Horowitz,Housman,Howells,Ireland,Quilter,Rossetti,Stanford,Thomas,Untermeyer & Masefield,Vaughan Williams,Warlock
LABELS: Champs Hill Records
ALBUM TITLE: This Other Eden: A Landscape of English Poetry and Song
WORKS: Songs by Ireland, Quilter, Vaughan Williams, Warlock, Gurney, Barber, Head, Howells, Stanford, Horowitz, Britten, & MacMillan; readings from Shakespeare, De la Mare, Clare, Berry, Hardy, Rossetti, Thomas, Housman, Untermeyer & Masefield
PERFORMER: Kitty Whately (mezzo), Kevin Whately, Madelaine Newton (reader), Joseph Middleton (piano); Navarra Quartet


I admit to doubts about the recent rash of recitals interspersed with poetry readings as they seldom stand repetition as well as songs. But this is a rather special case. Kitty Whately is one of Britain’s rising mezzos: she’s won the Kathleen Ferrier Prize and has a burgeoning international career. She also happens to be the daughter of actress Madelaine Newton and actor Kevin Whately, famous as Inspector Morse’s operaphobic sidekick from the television series – and they make this an engaging family affair.

Kitty Whately’s choice is eclectic, evoking her favourite British landscapes and encompassing composers from Stanford to Gurney, Howells, Joseph Horowitz, MacMillan, Barber and many others. She sings them with attractive brightness and fervour. Her tone is not yet as distinctive as Janet Baker or Sarah Connolly, say, but there’s a plangent shading in her lower register which reinforces the prevailing nostalgic atmosphere. Vaughan Williams’s We’ll to the woods no more is particularly appealing, supported by cellist Magnus Johnston. Joseph Middleton’s piano accompaniments are equally fine, and he contributes Britten’s horribly hearty solo piece ‘Early Morning Bathe’. The poems are enjoyable, though Housman’s ‘blue remembered hills’ recall the Midlands not Scotland; and there are some odd pronunciations. Singing ‘plover’ like ‘over’ is forgiveable, but does Ms Newton really begin Hardy’s Darkling Thrush ‘I learned upon a coppice gate…’?


Michael Scott Rohan