Hugh Wood

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Hugh Wood
LABELS: NMC Recordings
WORKS: Laurie Lee Songs; DH Lawrence Songs; The Isles of Greece; Wild Cyclamen
PERFORMER: Clare McCaldin (mezzo), James Gilchrist (tenor), Roderick Williams (baritone), Iain Burnside, Simon Lepper (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: NMC D201

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As he states in his liner notes, Hugh Wood started by writing songs, and examples with piano have recurred regularly throughout his long creative life. The earliest of the four sets here are the Laurie Lee Songs, written in 1956-8, while the most recent is The Isles of Greece, born of Wood’s love of that country (2007); in between come the DH Lawrence Songs, published in 1998, and Wild Cyclamen, a cycle assembled by Wood from the poetry of Robert Graves (2005-6).

Wood is nothing if not a craftsman, and his vocal lines are always skilful amplifications of the text while his idiomatically written piano parts set the voice off to its best advantage. The result recognisably lies within the long tradition of English song, with the harmonic language of the more recent examples flying more freely – in ‘Not to sleep’ from Wild Cyclamen, for example.

They are all scrupulously performed here, with Clare McCaldin engaged in the Laurie Lee settings, Roderick Williams offering precise and sentient articulation in The Isles of Greece, and James Gilchrist seeking out the tensions of Wild Cyclamen and the DH Lawrence settings. Sharing the pianistic honours, Iain Burnside and Simon Lepper are both excellent as always.

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George Hall