Romantic Residues

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Britten,Caplet,Faure,Ravel,Roth,Saint-Sa‘ns and Tournier,Skempton
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Romantic Residues
WORKS: Songs by Roth, Britten, Skempton, Fauré, Ravel, Caplet, Saint-Saëns
and Tournier
PERFORMER: James Gilchrist (tenor), Alison Nicholls (harp); with Jaime Martin (flute)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67725

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James Gilchrist avoids the worst trap awaiting solo recitals, the sameness caused by too narrow a programme. He leads off this eclectic selection with some of Alec Ross’s Vikram Seth settings, new but not intimidating. Seth’s verses vary in mood, but the prevailing one is a very Californian wry nostalgia, hinting more than saying, which Ross echoes in deliberately simple, lyrical settings no more challenging than Britten, if less idiosyncratically brilliant. This is apparent in the latter’s Folksong Arrangements, originally for pioneering harpist Osian Ellis but beautifully played here by Alison Nicholls. Gilchrist sounds quite at home in the Welsh songs. Less engaging are Skempton’s three, especially Housman’s ‘From far, from eve and morning’; the comparison it dares with Vaughan Williams only underlines the unresponsive word-setting and limp melodic content. In the French pieces Gilchrist has clearly taken pains with the language, but his tone is still decidedly Anglo-Saxon, short on variety and nuance. The Ravel Greek Songs could stand a shade more swashbuckle to match the words, but the limpid Saint-Saëns and Tournier pieces come over effectively. In all, while Gilchrist might still become more expressive and varied, he remains an interesting and intelligent singer, well served by his distinguished accompanists. Michael Scott Rohan