WORKS: The Heart’s Assurance; Boyhood’s End; Songs for Achilles; Songs for Ariel; Music; Songs (realised Tippett & Bergmann)
PERFORMER: Martyn Hill (tenor), Andrew Ball (piano), Craig Ogden (guitar)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66749 DDD
This disc is one of the most original tributes so far to the respective anniversaries this year of Tippett (ninety in January) and Purcell (300 years on from his death). It intersperses all of Tippett’s songs and song cycles (except the orchestral Songs for Dov) with realisations of some of Purcell’s solo songs made by Tippett and Walter Bergmann in the Forties. Like Britten, Tippett found the perfect model for English word-setting in Purcell’s music. But, despite the common ancestry, the later composers’ vocal music could hardly be more different from each other (there is a direct link, in that Peter Pears, with Britten at the piano, gave the first performances of Boyhood’s End and The Heart’s Assurance). Tippett’s most obvious debt to Purcell is found in his florid lines, with long melismas decorating the words, and the juxtaposition of the two composers’ music here is fascinating – there is even one guitar-accompanied Purcell setting leading into the similarly scored Songs for Achilles (derived from the opera King Priam).
Martyn Hill’s beautifully lyrical and unstrained tenor voice does the songs of both composers proud, in stylish performances full of character and dramatic variety – the equal of his rivals among Tippett tenors, Philip Langridge and Nigel Robson. His two accompanists, pianist Andrew Ball and guitarist Craig Ogden, provide equally refined and sympathetic support.
As the fullest representation of Tippett’s solo vocal music in the catalogue this disc is a must, both for devotees of the composer and for collectors of English song per se. Matthew Rye