COMPOSERS: Britten,Finzi,Vaughan Williams
WORKS: Oh Fair to See; Till Earth Outwears
PERFORMER: Donald Kaasch (tenor)Peter Lockwood (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: GLO 5202
It is encouraging to find an American tenor accompanied by a New Zealand pianist recording four English song cycles on a Dutch label. The first Finzi cycle comprises seven of his best Hardy settings, with ‘The Market Girl’ and the visionary ‘At a Lunar Eclipse’ outstanding examples of the composer’s affinity with the poet. Kaasch sings them with complete understanding and a lyricism that is not fractured by his strength of tone in climaxes. Oh Fair to See, also seven songs, covers six poets, Hardy among them, but the most moving songs here are the last two, settings of Blunden and Bridges written a month before Finzi died and indicative of how much he still had to say.
Vaughan Williams’s Romantic DG Rossetti sonnet settings in The House of Life (1903) contain many anticipations of bigger works, such as A Sea Symphony, which lay only a few years away. It also contains one of his great songs, ‘Silent Noon’, sung with rapt fervour by Kaasch and sensitively accompanied by Peter Lockwood.
The five Auden settings of Britten’s On This Island date from 1936 and are young Britten at his most inventive, notably ‘Now the leaves are falling fast’. Kaasch catches their spirit well. An enterprising disc. Michael Kennedy