At the recital’s heart are two substantial cycles. Setting seven poems by Thomas Hardy, Gerald Finzi’s Till Earth Outwears provides an intimate and movingly melancholic commentary in what Ronald Woodley describes in his extensive and informative booklet notes as a “male perspective on life, love and loss”.
Rarely recorded, Howard Ferguson’s five-part treatment of Denton Welch’s poems, Discovery, typifies “the subtlety of the relationship between late romanticism, modernism and the inherited idioms of ‘Britishness’ that composers of Ferguson’s generation inevitably grew up with”. Its second song, ‘Dreams Melting’, provides the recital’s title.
Three songs make their first appearance on disc. Elizabeth Maconchy’s setting of John Donne’s passionate but tortured A Hymn to God the Father boasts a searching vocal line underpinned by tellingly interrogative piano. Phyllis Tate’s The Falcon is a sparse but powerful setting of an anonymous medieval text while her variegated treatment of William Blake’s poem Cradle Song is reminiscent of a Bartók folksong arrangement.
Also heard are Maconchy’s Four Shakespeare Songs and settings of Ben Jonson’s Have You Seen but a Bright Lily Grow? and Robert Herrick’s A Meditation for his Mistress, alongside six varied and vital songs by Rebecca Clarke, including The Seal Man, “one of her most soaring flights of imagination”, and Tate’s Epitaph, in which her “quietly understated writing is masterly”.
A compendium of songs by William Walton and Constant Lambert, Façades (SOMMCD 0614), James Geer and Ronald Woodley’s debut SOMM release (with pianist Andrew West) was hailed by The Telegraph as “a wonderful collection of beautifully crafted miniatures”. MusicWeb International declared it “an absolute gem of a disc in every regard” and awarded it a Recording of the Year accolade.
On This Recording
Howard Ferguson (1908-99) Discovery
- Dreams Melting
- The Freedom of the City
- Jane Allen
- Discovery Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979)
- The Seal Man
- The Cloths of Heaven
- The Cherry-Blossom Wand
- Infant Joy
- Cradle Song
- Tiger, Tiger Elizabeth Maconchy (1907-1994)
- A Hymn to God the Father*
- Have You Seen but a Bright Lily Grow?
- A Meditation for his Mistress Gerald Finzi (1901-56) Till Earth outwears
- Let Me Enjoy the Earth
- In Years Defaced
- The Market-Girl
- I Look Into My Glass
- It Never Looks like Summer
- At a Lunar Eclipse
- Life Laughs Onward Elizabeth Maconchy Four Shakespeare Songs
- Come Away, Death
- The Wind and the Rain
- Take, O Take Those Lips Away
- King Stephen Phyllis Tate (1911-87)
- The Falcon
- Cradle Song*
“This fascinating collection of British songs is quite an ear-opener. … ‘The Seal Man’ in particular is a powerful fantasy, part horror, part tragic love story, and Ronald Woodley creates terrific atmosphere in the sea-swept piano part. This one, above all, stays with you. James Geer’s voice is distinctive, with a cut-through brightness of sound and superb intonation; add to this his intelligent phrasing and sensitivity to nuance and, in the Clarke songs, you can almost imagine you are listening to a top-notch violist, as the composer was herself.” —Jessica Duchen, BBC Music Magazine ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“Vocal lines serve the verse… In the ongoing recorded collaborations of tenor James Geer and pianist/musicologist Ronald Woodley… this collection most clearly gives an alternative view of 20th-century British music. The literary factor here is extremely high and diverse. … Arguably, Clarke’s songs are the most distinctive on the disc, including her ‘Cradle Song’, whose harmonies eloquently anticipate the heartbreak to come in a newborn’s life. At times, her songs seem like miniature tone poems for voice and piano… even for those familiar with this repertoire, the sequence of the album is one aspect of the special insights offered here. …both [performers] are clear, engaging conduits of a heady, dense collection of music that requires and rewards repeated listening.” —David Patrick Stearns, Gramophone