Vaughan Williams, Ireland, Gurney, Butterworth, Warlock

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Butterworth,Gurney,Ireland,Vaughan Williams,Warlock
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: The House of Life
WORKS: Songs
PERFORMER: Anthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor); David Willison (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CZS 5 74785 2 ADD Reissue (1974, 1975)
Anthony Rolfe Johnson recorded the two Vaughan Williams cycles early in his professional career. To call his performances ‘fresh’ would be an understatement: there’s a sense of wonder and love in Rolfe Johnson’s singing which gives even the best-known songs the force of something new. Songs of Travel has traditionally been baritone territory, and it could be argued that Rolfe Johnson’s sweet lyric tenor lacks the manly, stoic resolution demanded by ‘The Vagabond’, but in ‘Youth and Love’ and ‘Bright is the Ring of Words’ he is simply irresistible. The collection of English song recorded the following year is every bit as fine, though perhaps this gives an even better indication of his range of expression – a pity no texts are included. The Vaughan Williams choral/orchestral set is more of a mixed bag. At best – as in Boult’s Dona nobis pacem and Partita for Double String Orchestra – there is dignified intensity and warmth, though not always the urgency the music demands. Sound quality is more variable still – was Toward the Unknown Region really recorded as recently as 1973? Stephen Johnson