STANLEY WILSON: Art Songs of the British Romantics • Stanley Wilson (ten); Malcolm Halliday (pn) • MSR (54:00 Text and Translation)
BRIDGE Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind. Adoration. The Last Invocation. Love Went A-Riding. ELGAR Is She Not Passing Fair? Rondel. The Poet’s Life. The Wind at Dawn. QUILTER Go, Lovely Rose. Now Sleeps theRead more Crimson Petal. Love’s Philosophy. VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Songs of Travel
Although Stanley Wilson’s voice is rather on the dry side, and his top notes can be a bit tight (the high A at the end of Quilter’s Love’s Philosophy has a sense of strain about it), in the end this is a highly satisfying disc. Wilson, an American, has absorbed the style of these quintessential British composers, his English diction is crisp and clear, and he gets deeply inside each song and its texts. You might find richer vocalism in the recordings of Vaughan Williams’s Songs of Travel from Benjamin Luxon (Chandos) or Anthony Rolfe-Johnson (EMI and Imp Classics), but you will not find Wilson yielding to either of those in shaping the music and conveying its beauties. What makes the disc is the intelligent program. We don’t hear songs of Frank Bridge or Edward Elgar very often, and they are wonderful examples of songwriting. Every single selection here is worth knowing, and they are also assembled in a way that makes for a very musical flow.
Malcolm Halliday is a true collaborative pianist (a term I prefer to “accompanist”). He and Wilson match their inflections, their dynamics, and their tempo adjustments perfectly. The recorded sound is natural and well balanced, and MSR provides the texts, something it does not do with the Wolf disc I review elsewhere in this Fanfare. This is a real gem.