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English Song Series 20 - Butterworth: Songs From A Shropshire Lad, Folk Songs From Sussex

Butterworth / Williams / Burnside
Release Date: 07/27/2010 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8572426   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  George Butterworth
Performer:  Roderick WilliamsIain Burnside
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 52 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



BUTTERWORTH Songs from a Shropshire Lad. Folk Songs from Sussex Roderick Williams (bar); Iain Burnside (pn) NAXOS 8.572426 (52:05 Text and Translation)


It is an irony that has been commented upon many times that George Butterworth, who set quite a few of A. E. Housman’s poems about the fragility and dear transience of youth, would himself in 1916 become a youthful victim of the Great War. As a composer he showed much promise, and some achievement. In particular, his surviving Read more orchestral compositions— Two English Idylls (1911), A Shropshire Lad (1912), and especially The Banks of Green Willow (1913)—are rhapsodic tone poems that reveal both a subtle touch with instrumental textures, and a long-breathed, piercing lyricism well suited to his subjects. His songs by contrast are mellifluous but generalized. Butterworth’s A Shropshire Lad settings concentrate upon establishing a theme-based polarity of temporal joy and timeless regret, without an attendant emphasis on textual specifics. Several are wonderfully memorable, such as “Requiescat,” “Is My Team Ploughing,” “With Rue My Heart Is Laden,” and “Loveliest of Trees,” though they fail to reach the emotional intimacy inherent in the poetry, and caught perhaps best by Ivor Gurney and John Ireland.


Butterworth was born in York and of Yorkshire ancestry, but drawn to the countryside of Sussex. His 11 arrangements of folk songs from that county were published in 1912, and form the rest of this release. They are “classicized,” with extra voices (“Sowing the Seeds of Love”), and shifting, complex harmonies (“A Lawyer He Went Out One Day”), but none the worse for that. Of interest is “Yonder Stands a Lovely Creature,” recognizably a textual variant on “The Spanish Merchant’s Daughter” or “Oh, No, John,” made very popular in an anonymous musical arrangement based on a sanitized edition by Cecil Sharp. (Conchita Supervia’s 1932 recording of it has become justly celebrated.)


Roderick Williams leaves nothing to be desired in his performances of this material. He is the possessor of a dark baritone, evenly produced throughout its broad range, and without any attendant breathiness. His phrasing is exemplary, as are his rhythmic emphasis and enunciation; though texts are provided at Naxos’s Web site, it’s possible to understand most words he sings. One couldn’t wish for a better “The True Lover’s Farewell,” and its artistic restraint; for however beautiful the performance is, Williams must have been sorely challenged not to sing the lovely melody much slower, and with a good deal of rubato. That he didn’t, testifies to his taste.


He also doesn’t make the mistake of searching for a level of interpretative emotional depth in these selections, but emphasizes instead clarity, legato, and an attention to dynamic values that stands him in good stead. Those pieces that involve a dialogue (“A Lawyer He Went Out One Day,” “Tarry Trousers,” etc.) use subtle variation in tone to evoke personae, while a exuberantly light selection such as “Seventeen Come Sunday” gets a Sussex accent and resonance-drained voice for its handsome maid. Iain Burnside is a fully fledged partner in the proceedings, working hand-in-glove with Williams to excellent effect.


There are various collections that include Butterworth’s songs, but I haven’t encountered an in-print disc solely devoted to them, save this one. Definitely recommended.


FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
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Works on This Recording

1.
Songs (6) from A Shropshire Lad by George Butterworth
Performer:  Roderick Williams (Baritone), Iain Burnside (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911; England 
2.
Bredon Hill and Other Songs by George Butterworth
Performer:  Roderick Williams (Baritone), Iain Burnside (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912; England 
3.
I Will Make You Brooches by George Butterworth
Performer:  Roderick Williams (Baritone), Iain Burnside (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
4.
I Fear Thy Kisses by George Butterworth
Performer:  Roderick Williams (Baritone), Iain Burnside (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909 
5.
Folk Songs from Sussex (11) by George Butterworth
Performer:  Roderick Williams (Baritone), Iain Burnside (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912 

Sound Samples

6 Songs from A Shropshire Lad: No. 1. Loveliest of trees
6 Songs from A Shropshire Lad: No. 2. When I was one-and-twenty
6 Songs from A Shropshire Lad: No. 3. Look not in my eyes
6 Songs from A Shropshire Lad: No. 4. Think no more, lad
6 Songs from A Shropshire Lad: No. 5. The lads in their hundreds
6 Songs from A Shropshire Lad: No. 6. Is my team ploughing?
11 Folk Songs from Sussex: No. 7. A brisk young sailor courted me
11 Folk Songs from Sussex: No. 8. Seventeen come Sunday
11 Folk Songs from Sussex: No. 9. Roving in the dew
11 Folk Songs from Sussex: No. 10. The true lover's farewell
11 Folk Songs from Sussex: No. 11. Tarry trousers
Bredon Hill and Other Songs: No. 1. Bredon Hill
Bredon Hill and Other Songs: No. 2. O Fair enough are sky and plain
Bredon Hill and Other Songs: No. 3. When the lad for the longing sighs
Bredon Hill and Other Songs: No. 4. On the idle hill of summer
Bredon Hill and Other Songs: No. 5. With rue my heart is laden
I Will Make You Brooches
I Fear Thy Kisses
Requiescat
11 Folk Songs from Sussex: No. 1. Yonder stands a lovely creature
11 Folk Songs from Sussex: No. 2. A blacksmith courted me
11 Folk Songs from Sussex: No. 3. Sowing the seeds of love
11 Folk Songs from Sussex: No. 4. A lawyer he went out one day
11 Folk Songs from Sussex: No. 5. Come my own one
11 Folk Songs from Sussex: No. 6. The cuckoo

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