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Her Song - Orchestral Songs And Arias / Susan Gritton, Martyn Brabbins, Bbc Concert Orchestra


Release Date: 09/08/2009 
Label:  Dutton Laboratories/Vocalion   Catalog #: 7228   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Sir Edward ElgarEric GrittonCharles Hubert ParryJohn Sanders,   ... 
Performer:  Susan GrittonCynthia Fleming
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



HER SONG Susan Gritton (sop); Martyn Brabbins, cond; BBC Concert O DUTTON 7228 (68: 31)


ELGAR The Torch; The Wind at Dawn; Pleading; Like to the Damask Rose; The Shepherd’s Song; O Soft Was the Song; Was It Some Golden Star?; Twilight; There Are Seven that Pull the Thread; The Sun Goeth Down. GRITTON O Stay, Madonna! PARRY Guenever: Read more class="ARIAL12">Guenever’s Solilquy. SANDERS Evening on Severn. IRELAND Love and Friendship; My True Love Hath My Heart; The Trellis; Adoration; I Have Twelve Oxen; The Salley Gardens; The Heart’s Desire; Baby; Her Song


The orchestral songs of late Victorian and Edwardian England evolved from the parlor songs of an earlier day. Despite individual exceptions, their manner by our standards was histrionic, their sentiments effusive. Over time they shed their insularity and acquired greater sophistication, both in texts and music. Although this collection has no ambitions to provide an oversight of that development, it manages to neatly suggest this evolution through its choice of composers and a representative selection of their work.


Lewis Foreman’s excellent liner notes refer to some of Edward Elgar’s solo songs as possessing “the feel of a quickly produced pot-boiler thrown to the masses to raise the national spirit and [his] bank balance.” The group recorded here doesn’t come off as badly, but I admit to finding these 10 numbers exceedingly uneven in inspiration. Pleading is head-and-shoulders above the rest. Despite a fusty text, the music has the intimate touch of Elgar’s later suites, with its evasive major-minor harmonies, memorable thematic content, and delicate accompaniment. Was It Some Golden Star? from the composer’s uncompleted song cycle on poetry by Gilbert Parker is both trivial and hackneyed in its verse, but takes a repetitive Russian-sounding theme and gives it the Rimsky-Korsakov treatment; each verse is harmonized and orchestrated with distinction. There Are Seven That Pull the Thread was a last-minute addition to a play co-authored by the poet W. B. Yeats, Diarmuid and Grania . It is singular for its complexity of effect achieved with an economy of means (especially in the counterpoint of its sparing accompaniment), a musical equivalent of Yeats’s own accomplishment.


John Ireland contributes the next largest collection, with nine songs written between 1917 and the early 1930s. All have been orchestrated by Graham Parlett, under the auspices of the John Ireland Trust. It is fair to state that each sounds perfectly natural in its current orchestral garb, when compared to the piano originals, certainly a testament to Parlett’s skill.


The texts are excellent, as Ireland had both exceptional literary tastes and the moxie to set his music to fine poetry. In general, he succeeds. The ever-shifting emotional weight of Arthur Symons’ Adoration is perfectly caught in harmonic subtleties, while Yeats’s melancholy The Salley Gardens pits a simple, traditional-sounding tune against understated harmonic counterpoint with notable results. The chromatic setting of My True Love Hath My Heart seems overkill next to Philip Sidney’s exquisitely direct and heartfelt verses, but The Trellis , with a text by Aldous Huxley, is more typical in its almost conversational vocal line, following the flow of the language (for which Ireland had an extraordinary ear) with shifting, unpredictable harmonies and a memorable accompanying figure.


For the rest, we are treated to a single selection by each of three composers. O Stay, Madonna! is something of a family affair, as it was written by Susan Gritton’s grandfather Eric Gritton, and orchestrated by her father, the conductor Robin Gritton. It is a pleasant if unmemorable late-Romantic work that recalls a number of other composers, notably Wagner in its vocal line. Evening on Severn by John Sanders was originally the finale to a song cycle, In Praise of Gloucestershire , composed for soprano, clarinet, and piano. It was then orchestrated into the fourth of five movements for a cantata, Gloucestershire Visions , to mark the 150th anniversary of the Gloucester Choral Society. The orchestral introduction of his aria places Sanders at once as a representative of the British Pastoral school, with a gift for deft orchestration. Finally, there’s a soliloquy from Hubert Parry’s 1886 opera, Guenever , as orchestrated by Jeremy Dibble. It was to prove a bitter disappointment to the composer, who spent three years on it, only to be turned down by Carl Rosa for his opera company after its completion in piano score. The soliloquy is vividly theatrical and thematically unforgettable, a breathtaking glimpse at a work that deserves to be heard in its entirety by performers of Gritton’s quality.


As for Gritton, she presents her darkly colored lyric soprano to advantage throughout the proceedings. Whether it’s the refined diminuendo at the conclusion of Evening on Severn , purity of tonal emission in There Are Seven That Pull the Thread , legato in Baby , or an instinct for dramatic expression in the Guenever soliloquy, it’s all there. Her clear enunciation without musical loss, too, is especially appreciated in the Ireland numbers such as Her Song. Try singing Hardy’s lines “and paths were f aint; and f locking f ears/brought c up-eyed c are and doubt” yourself, and you’ll get a sense of her accomplishment in this vein.


My impressions of Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Concert Orchestra are, on the whole, positive, as the conductor lovingly brings out every instrumental strand and balances it carefully, to maximum effect, without overpowering his soloist. The one exception to this is the Guenever selection, sluggish and uncomprehending in the theatrical ebb and flow of the arioso. But Brabbins is not an operatic conductor, and that piece required skills he as yet lacks.


The sound quality is first-rate, and my only regret is the absence of any texts in the jewel box. I did find them for the Elgar and Ireland at www.recmusic.org, but it’s no slur on Gritton to point out that many textual details were lost in faster or louder passages.


In short, a very welcome release. I hope Dutton and Gritton can be persuaded to return with yet more Ireland, but remain extremely thankful for this.


FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

1.
Songs (2), Op. 60: no 1, The Torch by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1909-1910; England 
Length: 2 Minutes 34 Secs. 
2.
The Wind at Dawn by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888; England 
Length: 3 Minutes 8 Secs. 
3.
Pleading, Op. 48 by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1908; England 
Length: 2 Minutes 46 Secs. 
4.
Like to the damask rose by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892; England 
Length: 3 Minutes 49 Secs. 
5.
Shepherd's Song, Op. 16 no 1 by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892; England 
Length: 2 Minutes 50 Secs. 
6.
Song Cycle, Op. 59: no 3, Oh, Soft was the Song by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1909-1910; England 
Length: 1 Minutes 49 Secs. 
7.
Song Cycle, Op. 59: no 5, Was it some Golden Star? by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1909-1910; England 
Length: 2 Minutes 35 Secs. 
8.
Song Cycle, Op. 59: Twilight by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Length: 3 Minutes 1 Secs. 
9.
Grania and Diarmid, Op. 41: There are Seven that Pull the Thread by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901; England 
Length: 2 Minutes 47 Secs. 
10.
The Kingdom, Op. 51: The Sun Goeth Down by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Cynthia Fleming (Violin), Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Length: 8 Minutes 33 Secs. 
11.
O Stay, Madonna by Eric Gritton
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 4 Minutes 12 Secs. 
12.
Guenever: Act 1. Scene 4. Guenever's Soliloquy by Charles Hubert Parry
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 4 Minutes 20 Secs. 
13.
Gloucestershire Visions: No. 4. Evening on Severn by John Sanders
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 5 Minutes 4 Secs. 
14.
Five Songs for Soprano & Orchestra: Love and Friendship by John Ireland
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926; England 
Length: 2 Minutes 6 Secs. 
15.
Five Songs for Soprano & Orchestra: My True Love Hath My Heart by John Ireland
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Length: 1 Minutes 56 Secs. 
16.
Songs (2): The Trellis by John Ireland
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Length: 3 Minutes 7 Secs. 
17.
Five Songs for Soprano & Orchestra: Adoration by John Ireland
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Length: 2 Minutes 55 Secs. 
18.
Five Songs for Soprano & Orchestra: I Have Twelve Oxen by John Ireland
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1918; England 
Length: 2 Minutes 11 Secs. 
19.
Four Songs for Soprano & Strings: The Salley Gardens by John Ireland
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1929-1931; England 
Length: 2 Minutes 29 Secs. 
20.
The Heart's Desire by John Ireland
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: circa 1917; England 
Length: 2 Minutes 14 Secs. 
21.
Four Songs for Soprano & Strings: Baby by John Ireland
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1918; England 
Length: 1 Minutes 18 Secs. 
22.
Four Songs for Soprano & Strings: Her Song by John Ireland
Performer:  Susan Gritton (Soprano)
Conductor:  Martyn Brabbins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1925; England 
Length: 2 Minutes 34 Secs. 

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