My True Love Hath My Heart

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COMPOSERS: Britten,Gurney,Head,Howells,Ireland,Rodney Bennett & Warlock
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Songs by Britten, Gurney, Head, Howells, Ireland, Rodney Bennett & Warlock
PERFORMER: Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano), Malcolm Martineau (piano)

A new context for a recital of English song is provided by Richard Rodney Bennett’s A History of the Dansant: three dance-songs evoking the world of the 1920s French Riviera, and setting the poetry of his sister, Meg Peacocke. Voice and fingers slink through foxtrot and tango with both sophistication and nonchalance, as Sarah Connolly and Malcolm Martineau give this little-known work an irresistible outing.
To hear the memories of the 1920s that follow, you would be forgiven for thinking that this was an era exclusively of melancholy and sentimental nostalgia. Connolly and Martineau choose songs by Howells, Ireland and Gurney. They create a sense of isolation within the sadness of King David; they capture Ireland’s responses to the poetry of Hardy, Sidney and Symons with total commitment; and they respond with sentience to Gurney’s uniquely eloquent feeling for the inflections of the English language in two of his classic songs: Sleep and By a Bierside.
It’s quite a relief to breathe the fresher, clearer air of three of Britten’s folksong arrangements, to which Connolly brings the simplicity and veiled ardour which is of their essence. And the hushed other-worldliness of their finely imagined Corpus Christi Carol is admirable. Hilary Finch