Various: Folksongs

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COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Decca
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Wayfaring Stranger
WORKS: Folksongs
PERFORMER: Andreas Scholl (countertenor), Edin Karamazov (lute), Jon Pickow (dulcimer, banjo), Stacey Shames (harp); Orpheus CO
CATALOGUE NO: 468 499-2
Countertenor Andreas Scholl has already revealed his unique skill in discovering the heart-music within the art-music of both the lute song and the Baroque aria. And it had to be only a matter of time before an album like this would appear, presenting a fusion of his own classical and folk-music interests,

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and tuning in, via its title, to the folksy artifice of Mahler’s own Wayfaring Lad.

It has to remain a matter of taste as to whether the infinite implied harmonies and colours within the unaccompanied voice are more or less rewarding than the harmonic pre-selection and expressive direction created by any arrangement, be it Baez or Britten. Craig Leon, an American folk-music scholar, has arranged and devised this programme for Scholl and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. And, for me, there are just too many clichés – the sugared harmonies and tremolos of 19th-century revival, the archaisms of pseudo-modality – to add much to either Scholl’s own rich palette of vocal colour, or to the natural eloquence of the songs themselves.

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The ‘Salley Gardens’, for instance, seems oppressed by the Shaker-like string figuration; the fragrance of Burns’s ‘Red, red rose’ dulled by its bland harmonic backdrop. But banjo and dulcimer make an inspired choice for the Anglo-Appalachian ‘Charming beauty bright’, and Scholl as baritone makes brief and haunting appearances as a wraggle-taggle gypsy, and as the pirate Henry Martin. Hilary Finch