Britten, Dowland, Maw
ALBUM TITLE: Songs for tenor and guitar
WORKS: Come, heavy Sleep; Six Interiors
CATALOGUE NO: C
This is rather special: one of the finest British tenors plus a guitarist who can obtain such a range of colour and expression from his instrument that 74 minutes doesn’t seem a second too long. It’s also a beautifully balanced concert programme. Two songs by John Dowland – with Stephen Marchionda doing an excellent and very natural-sounding impression of a lute – frame powerful, darkly inward-looking major works by Benjamin Britten and Nicholas Maw. Britten’s Nocturnal after John Dowland grows so tellingly out of the latter’s Come, heavy Sleep – not just its leading melody but also its emotional world – that the difference in style hardly seems an issue. Then Maw’s unmistakably Brittenish Six Interiors and the later solo guitar Music of Memory must count amongst his most effective and roundly satisfying works.
The performances are outstanding. Langridge phrases even the simplest two-note figures with breathtaking elegance and intensity. Each song is its own world of meaning, but in the longer cycles the whole adds up to something even greater. Marchionda is a near-ideal partner, and he’s a compelling soloist in Maw’s long, single-movement Music of Memory, with each reference to the Mendelssohn Quartet that inspired it exquisitely placed and highlighted. Superb recordings too: intimate without ever feeling too close and finely balanced. Stephen Johnson