Vaughan Williams: The Willow Song; Ca’ the yowes; Over hill, over dale; Bushes and Briars

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COMPOSERS: Vaughan Williams
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: The Willow Song; Ca’ the yowes; Over hill, over dale; Bushes and Briars
PERFORMER: Ian Bostridge (tenor)Michael George (bass); Holst Singers/Stephen Layton
This new Vaughan Williams collection complements the Holst Singers’ critically acclaimed 1993 CD of Holst partsongs (Hyperion CDA 66705) and is equally impressive. The works range from ‘The Willow Song’, composed when RVW was 18, to ‘Heart’s Music’ at 82. The singing is not only masterly but also supremely musical – so many of these songs are elevated to fresh heights, illuminating RVW’s highly evocative writing. Indeed the familiar opening work, ‘Loch Lomond’, with Michael George, warmly nostalgic against radiant high descants, sounds really beguiling and newly minted. The setting of Robert Burns’s ‘Ca’ the yowes’ is sublime too, with Ian Bostridge soothing and caring in this lovely, gentle love song. The Shakespeare settings are outstanding: the dull, bell-like tones of ‘Full Fathom Five’ sounding as from eerie depths, the high rarefied atmosphere of ‘The Cloud-Capp’d Towers’ with ‘We are stuff as dreams are made on…’ floating and dispersing as wisps of cloud, and the mercurial high spirits of ‘Over hill, over dale’. The choir’s male voices, supporting Ian Bostridge recalling the plaintive pleading of his love, distinguish one of RVW’s best known yet enigmatic folksongs, ‘Bushes and Briars’. And the arrangement of the Manx melody, ‘Mannin Veen’ will surely haunt you. Ian Lace