WORKS: Anon in Love; A Song for the Lord Mayor’s Table; Façade Settings
PERFORMER: Felicity Lott (soprano), Martyn Hill (tenor), Craig Ogden (guitar), Graham Johnson (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 14932
For all his affinity with the human voice – take those magnificent choral works, the two operas – Walton composed few secular songs. This slender recital contains most of them: two short song cycles Anon in Love (1959) and A Song for the Lord Mayor’s Table (1962), six songs from Façade rearranged so that the vocal line is sung rather than declaimed as intended in the original, and four others.
It is a shame the oeuvre is so small, for Walton was a brilliant setter of texts, paying precise attention to the words not only for their sense, but also for their sound and rhythm. They are unfailingly evocative of subject (‘The Winds’, written when he was 16, with its urgent, blustery piano part), period (the lyrical setting of ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ is true to the spirit of Shakespeare’s time but not at all a pastiche), and mood (the wonderfully spiky responses to Sitwell’s bizarre texts).
Graham Johnson, Felicity Lott and Martyn Hill make a formidable team. Johnson is outstanding as always. Hill’s warm, focused tenor is well complemented by Lott’s gleaming, silvered soprano. But she is not a relaxed singer, a fact which tarnishes two of the Façade songs: ‘Old Sir Faulk’ suffers some stiffness; and her fake cockney accent on ‘Wapping Old Stairs’ may be judged a mistake. Claire Wrathall