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Call Me Flott / Felicity Lott, Graham Johnson

Lott,Felicity / Johnson,Graham
Release Date: 04/27/2010 
Label:  Champs Hill Records   Catalog #: 3   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Geoffrey BushFrancis PoulencMervyn HorderCharles Gounod,   ... 
Performer:  Felicity LottGraham Johnson
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 15 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

A captivating disc in which charm and sophistication are blended in equal measure.

f you look at the contents of this recital and see the names of such composers as Cole Porter, Ivor Novello and Noël Coward you might be forgiven for thinking that this CD is the vocal equivalent of a collection of Beecham ‘lollipops’. However, such is not the case. To be sure, there is some lighter material here – quite a bit of it, in fact – but it’s interwoven with more serious fare, including several novelties. Also, and this is a key point, Felicity Lott and Graham Johnson treat every piece, even such a “lightweight” as the music hall spoof by Lord Berners, with equal care and fastidious musicianship. In fact, what this disc is
Read more all about, Graham Johnson tells us, is the sheer pleasure of performing songs in English.

There are some surprises on the way. We hear the only song that Poulenc composed to an English text – lines from The Merchant of Venice. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before but it’s a dreamy delight. The link with Britten, whose setting of the same lines is placed next, is that both of these settings were written at the request of Marion Countess of Harewood. Though the same text is set the two songs could hardly be more different. Britten’s is much pithier, almost spiky. My own preference – and it’s a strong one - is for Poulenc’s response to Shakespeare.

Poulenc is not the only French composer who makes a “surprise” entry in this programme of songs in English. I was intrigued to see a setting by Gounod of Shelley’s poem, Love’s Philosophy. In fact, Graham Johnson tells us that he wrote some seventy songs in English while in self-imposed exile in London in 1870, but he promptly adapted them all to different texts in his native tongue on his return home! The fountain mingles with the river is a good song. I was just as unaware of the existence of even one English song by Saint-Saëns – are there any more, I wonder? – and the lilting setting included here has no little charm. The Hahn song is one of five settings by him of words by Robert Louis Stevenson. I suspect these rarities have been unearthed by Graham Johnson: how does one man have such an encyclopaedic knowledge of the art song repertoire and of its more recherché corners?

Naturally, there are several songs by English composers. New to me was Mervyn Horder’s setting of Under the greenwood tree – and how unusual to hear these lines set to a tango rhythm! Another song I’d not heard before was Antony Hopkins’ A melancholy song. Perhaps best known for his writings about music and his long-running radio series, Talking about Music, Hopkins the composer is represented here by an extremely brief song. It’s bright and deft, quite belying the title. Incidentally, though Ms Lott’s diction is impeccable throughout, this was one of the numbers in which I regretted the lack of texts in the booklet.

There’s also an entry from Sir Arthur Bliss, whose songs are too little known. As Graham Johnson comments, his The return from town is “music as simple as a folksong”. It’s expertly rendered here. However, I was intrigued to find that the interpretation is markedly different to that by Geraldine McGreevy and Kathron Sturrock on the Hyperion set of the complete songs of Bliss ( review). There the song is delivered at a much faster tempo and is dispatched in a mere 1:07. On this present disc Lott and Johnson take 2:05 and the song is radically different as a result.

Lighter songs from both sides of the Atlantic account for quite a lot of the programme. The three songs by Noël Coward are done with real feeling – I particularly enjoyed If love were all – and Lott is a delightful interpreter of Cole Porter. She’s the epitome of a coolly correct maidservant in Miss Otis regrets and delivers the devilishly clever double entendres of The physician with relish.

I mentioned earlier the care and skill which has gone into these performances. The best illustration of this, perhaps, is Flanders and Swann’s hilarious A word on my ear. A friend of mine, a very good soprano, has this song in her repertoire and, having heard her rehearse and perform it several times, I know how musically taxing it is both for the singer and for the poor pianist. It takes top quality musicianship to be able to pull this song off at all, let alone to make it sound as funny as it does here.

This is a peach of a disc and it entertained me greatly. Anyone who has seen Dame Felicity in recital will know what an engaging singer she is. She has the gift of being able to sound just as engaging through loudspeakers and she has the perfect partner in Graham Johnson.

Graham Johnson’s notes are succinct but characteristically interesting and entertaining. However, it’s a pity someone didn’t proof read them a bit more carefully for there are a surprising number of typographical errors. As I mentioned earlier, no texts are supplied. Despite the clarity of Ms Lott’s singing I think that’s a pity.

And from where does the title of the programme come? Dame Felicity is widely known in the profession as “Flott”. Here, she and Graham Johnson make a very slight alteration to the text of a Jerome Kern song, which actually rhymes better with the text. It’s a nice little touch.

This is a captivating disc in which charm and sophistication are blended in equal measure. It’s one of the most enjoyable recital discs I’ve heard for a long time.

-- John Quinn, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
It was a lover and his lass by Geoffrey Bush
Performer:  Felicity Lott (), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 1 Minutes 55 Secs. 
2.
Fancy by Francis Poulenc
Performer:  Felicity Lott (), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1959; France 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 1 Minutes 51 Secs. 
3.
Under the Greenwood Tree by Mervyn Horder
Performer:  Graham Johnson (Piano), Felicity Lott ()
Period: 20th Century 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 1 Minutes 39 Secs. 
4.
The fountain mingles with the river by Charles Gounod
Performer:  Felicity Lott (), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1871; England 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 1 Minutes 40 Secs. 
5.
A melancholy song, for voice & piano by Antony Hopkins
Performer:  Graham Johnson (Piano), Felicity Lott ()
Period: Contemporary 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 0 Minutes 57 Secs. 
6.
Bitter Sweet: If Love Were All by Noel Coward
Performer:  Felicity Lott (), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1929; England 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 5 Minutes 47 Secs. 
7.
You can't make love by wireless, for voice & piano by Jerome Kern
Performer:  Felicity Lott (), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 3 Minutes 17 Secs. 
8.
Betjeman Songs (5): no 2, Song of a nightclub proprietress by Madeleine Dring
Performer:  Felicity Lott (), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1976; England 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 2 Minutes 53 Secs. 
9.
What'll I Do? by Irving Berlin
Performer:  Graham Johnson (Piano), Felicity Lott ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1924; USA 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 3 Minutes 35 Secs. 
10.
Miss Otis Regrets by Cole Porter
Performer:  Graham Johnson (Piano), Felicity Lott ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: circa 1931; England 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 2 Minutes 52 Secs. 
11.
The boy in the gallery, for voice & piano by George Ware
Performer:  Graham Johnson (Piano), Felicity Lott ()
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 2 Minutes 45 Secs. 
12.
Words and Music: Mad about the boy by Noel Coward
Performer:  Felicity Lott (), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932; England 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 5 Minutes 1 Secs. 
13.
Nymph Errant: The Physician by Cole Porter
Performer:  Felicity Lott (), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Written: 1933 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 4 Minutes 10 Secs. 
14.
Come on Algernon, for voice & piano by Lord Berners
Performer:  Felicity Lott (), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 3 Minutes 7 Secs. 
15.
A word on my ear by Donald Swann
Performer:  Graham Johnson (Piano), Felicity Lott ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 4 Minutes 36 Secs. 
16.
I Love a Piano by Irving Berlin
Performer:  Felicity Lott (), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1915; USA 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 3 Minutes 23 Secs. 
17.
Call Me Flo, song by Jerome Kern
Performer:  Felicity Lott (), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1912 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 1 Minutes 36 Secs. 
18.
Bees are buzzin', for voice & piano by Ivor Novello
Performer:  Felicity Lott (), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 3 Minutes 16 Secs. 
19.
Let's put out the lights by Herman Hupfeld
Performer:  Felicity Lott (), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 2 Minutes 12 Secs. 
20.
Words and Music: The Party's Over Now by Noel Coward
Performer:  Graham Johnson (Piano), Felicity Lott ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932; England 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 1 Minutes 49 Secs. 
21.
Cherry Tree Farm by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Felicity Lott (), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 2 Minutes 27 Secs. 
22.
Litany, for voice & piano by John Musto
Performer:  Graham Johnson (Piano), Felicity Lott ()
Period: Contemporary 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 3 Minutes 54 Secs. 
23.
Despite and Still, Op. 41: no 4, Solitary Hotel by Samuel Barber
Performer:  Graham Johnson (Piano), Felicity Lott ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1967; USA 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 2 Minutes 39 Secs. 
24.
Fancy "Tell us where is Fancie Bried" by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Felicity Lott (), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1961; England 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 0 Minutes 59 Secs. 
25.
The Return from Town, song for voice & piano (Two Amercian Poems No. 2), F. 184/2 by Sir A. Bliss
Performer:  Felicity Lott (), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: 1940 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 2 Minutes 9 Secs. 
26.
The Child's Garden of Verses: The swing by Reynaldo Hahn
Performer:  Felicity Lott (), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1915 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 1 Minutes 47 Secs. 
27.
O That It Were So, for voice & piano, H. 105 by Frank Bridge
Performer:  Felicity Lott (), Graham Johnson (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Written: circa 1912 
Venue:  Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, En 
Length: 2 Minutes 16 Secs. 

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