COMPOSERS: Stanford,Vaughan Williams
LABELS: Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: Songs of the Sea • Songs of Travel
WORKS: Stanford: Songs of the Sea; Songs of the Fleet; La Belle dame sans merci; Vaughan Williams: Linden Lea; Three Poems by Walt Whitman; Songs of Travel; Blackmore by the Stour
PERFORMER: Anthony Michaels-Moore (baritone), Michael Pollock (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: OACD9014
It’s been a pleasure to watch Anthony Michaels-Moore rise from our regional companies to international Verdi and Puccini stardom. Here, though, his sturdy, mellifluous baritone reverts to core British repertoire. Charles Villiers Stanford’s two cycles, to Sir Henry Newbolt’s verses, were at one time often dismissed as Victorian absurdities; but modern recordings, especially from Benjamin Luxon and more recently Gerald Finley, have rediscovered their vigour and atmosphere.
Michaels-Moore records the piano version, throwing the burden of colour and expression on to the voice with considerable success. He isn’t quite as hearty as Luxon or as intense as Finley, but he still sounds arrestingly heroic in ‘Drake’s Drum’. He also finds rich melancholy in ‘Outward Bound’ and ‘Sailing at Dawn’, with Michael Pollock offering fluent support throughout.
The Robert Louis Stevenson-based Songs of Travel and the Three Whitman Poems – both by Stanford’s pupil Vaughan Williams – are more sophisticated, but they lead on well. In these, Michaels-Moore faces equal competition, including Sir Thomas Allen and Bryn Terfel, but concedes little, whether in his response to the themes of youth and age, or in sheer vocal beauty. One curiosity: he sings VW’s earlier song ‘Blackmore by the Stour’ splendidly in the standard English version, but it’s the ‘Darset’ dialect version the notes refer to and print.
Michael Scott Rohan