Barber: Hermit Songs; Mélodies passagères; Dover Beach; Three Songs; Bessie Bobtail; The Beggar’s Song; In the dark pinewood; There’s nae lark

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COMPOSERS: Barber
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Songs by Samuel Barber
WORKS: Hermit Songs; Mélodies passagères; Dover Beach; Three Songs; Bessie Bobtail; The Beggar’s Song; In the dark pinewood; There’s nae lark
PERFORMER: Gerald Finley (baritone); Julius Drake (piano); The Aronowitz Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67528

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Samuel Barber was a singer as well as a composer, and his beautifully wrought songs represent one of the most durable segments of his output. This programme reflects his predominantly European sensibilities: the Hermit Songs on texts from the margins of Irish medieval manuscripts, the Opus 10 group to poems of James Joyce, the Mélodies passagères to French poems by Rilke, and Dover Beach, on one of the great poems of Victorian England.

As on his 2005 Ives collection, the Canadian baritone Gerald Finley is golden in tone, persuasive in phrasing, and unfailingly responsive to the sound and sense of the words. Julius Drake once more proves a strong and imaginative partner, and a quartet from the Aronowitz Ensemble makes a promising recording debut. Deutsche Grammophon’s two-disc set of Barber’s complete songs, sung by Cheryl Studer and Thomas Hampson with John Browning, remains an indispensable resource. But this excellently recorded disc complements it, offering a baritone version of the Hermit Songs to put alongside Studer’s, and altogether amounting to a very satisfying recital.

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Anthony Burton