Vaughan Williams: Five Mystical Songs; On Wenlock Edge; Silent Noon; The Splendour Falls; Dirge for Fidele

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COMPOSERS: Vaughan Williams
LABELS: Naxos
WORKS: Five Mystical Songs; On Wenlock Edge; Silent Noon; The Splendour Falls; Dirge for Fidele
PERFORMER: Anthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor), Simon Keenlyside (baritone), Graham Johnson (piano); Duke Quartet
CATALOGUE NO: 8.557114 Reissue (1996)
Another reissue from the Collins English song series brings Rolfe Johnson’s sensitive account of On Wenlock Edge back into circulation. He’s especially effective in the long lines of ‘Bredon Hill’ (and how much VW’s short period of study with Ravel shows in the impressionistic opening, beautifully spun by the Duke Quartet) though for the bigger moments you might prefer the earthier sound of John Mark Ainsley on Hyperion. Even under Graham Johnson’s expert fingers some of the piano accompaniment to the Mystical Songs is rather lumpen compared with the more accomplished orchestral version. And though Keenlyside has an acute sense of words and line, his sonorous voice sometimes cries out for orchestral support, particularly in the climactic Antiphon. The two singers share the other songs on the disc, which include a serene ‘Silent Noon’ from Keenlyside and an impassioned ‘Lord, come away’ from Rolfe Johnson. A bargain, with only minor reservations. Martin Cotton

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