Sea Fever

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bainton and Parry,Bax,Boughton,Dyson,Ireland
LABELS: Dutton
WORKS: Works by Bax, Ireland, Dyson, Boughton, Bainton and Parry
PERFORMER: Concert Orchestra/Martin Yates
CATALOGUE NO: Dutton CDLX 7199

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After so many exciting Victorian and Edwardian musical rediscoveries lately, a salutary reminder that it wasn’t all good.

Roderick Williams is his usual mellifluous self, but these baritone songs, often orchestrated by other hands, are a very mixed bag, containing a few prize turkeys.

The opening Bax songs evoke all too clearly the late Michael Oliver’s verdict – ‘expansive chromaticism and clamour’, their accompaniments glittering and overblown to the point of high camp (even inserting Wagner’s Valhalla motif in ‘Fiona Macleod’s plonking Viking-Battle-Song) and their vocal lines shapeless.

Much better are the Ireland songs, led by the well-known Sea Feverrather sluggishly conducted; but Dyson’s settings are at best worthy and foursquare, Bunyan’s Pilgrim Hymn and Herbert’s ‘Let all the world in every corner sing’ distinctly duller than the familiar hymnal versions.

Boughton’s Kipling songs are impressive. Surprisingly, for a dedicated Communist in the making, he captures the poet’s voice – atmospheric, patriotic and philosophical – with real feeling.

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But sadly, the fascinating-sounding finale, a reconstructed scene from Parry’s opera Guenever, struck me as 12 minutes of turgid tedium, a fustian libretto set to almost hilariously empty ersatz Wagner, a waste of Williams and Tynan. No wonder Carl Rosa rejected it!