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The Complete Butterworth Songbook

Butterworth / Stone / Barlow
Release Date: 07/12/2011 
Label:  Stone Records   Catalog #: 80024   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  George ButterworthUnspecified
Performer:  Mark StoneStephen Barlow
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 11 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

BUTTERWORTH The Complete Songbook Mark Stone (bar); Stephen Barlow (pn) STONE 5060192780024 (71:03 Text and Translation)

Six Songs from A Shropshire Lad. Haste On, My Joys! Folk Songs from Sussex. I Will Make You Brooches. Love Blows as the Wind Blows. I Fear Thy Kisses. Requiescat. Bredon Hill and Other Songs

George Butterworth represents one of the tragic losses that music suffered by a gifted Read more composer’s early death. He was born in London in 1885, and killed in battle in World War I in 1916. The sheer beauty of some of his brief orchestral works has ensured them a lasting place in the repertoire.

Individual songs by Butterworth have been recorded a number of times, and there is one previous disc of which I am aware devoted entirely to them—an excellent Naxos recording (8.562426) positively reviewed by Barry Brensal in Fanfare 34:3. I agree with his description of the songs—they are attractive, more than pleasant, but lack the memorable quality of Butterworth’s finest works. But anyone with a fondness for late Romantic English songs will find much to enjoy here. Butterworth had the gift of melodic inspiration, and these songs reflect that. The piano writing is rather simple and supportive of the vocal line, but not often providing much additional material.

The Naxos disc is not complete—it lacks Haste On, My Joys! and the four songs in the cycle Love Blows as the Wind Blows . Other than that, this recording duplicates it. I worried at first—Mark Stone singing on the Stone Records label has the feel of a vanity recording, and often those can be very disappointing. Not so here. Although he has a lighter, less rich voice than Naxos’s Roderick Williams, the sound is pleasant and he sings with a genuine feel for the music and the words. Only when he pushes it at some climactic moments does the tone become worryingly thin. Barlow’s pianism is alive and clearly engaged with the singer while adding his own color to the songs. I would have to say that I do have a preference for the Naxos performances, but these are more than acceptable.

The recorded sound is a bit distant—I wish the voice were more closely miked—but the balance is good. There are no notes at all about the performers, but the notes about Butterworth and the songs are superb, and all the texts are provided. There is a bonus video of Butterworth dancing, which I openly admit I did not watch. This is an attractive disc.

FANFARE: Henry Fogel


The baritone, Mark Stone, has made several forays into the English song repertoire on CD and, latterly, his recordings have begun to appear on his own label. I’ve already enjoyed his mixed recital of songs, entitled ‘English Love’ and an earlier Quilter collection. With this latest disc he offers what is probably the most comprehensive and complete survey on disc of the songs of George Butterworth.

Although not specifically stated in the booklet, I learned from the label’s website that the disc includes the first-ever recording of the piano version of the collection of four songs, Love Blows as the Wind Blows. Also receiving first recordings here are eight of the eleven Folk Songs from Sussex – and we’re told there are presently no other available recordings of the remaining three songs – and another recorded première is accorded to Haste on, my joys! This is of especial interest to Butterworth admirers for the song was thought to be lost and a copy only turned up as recently as 2001. So for enterprise and comprehensiveness this collection scores very highly and, generally speaking, it gets high marks for execution also.

It’s pointless to speculate how significant a composer George Butterworth might have become had he not been one of the millions of young men slaughtered in the carnage that was the trench warfare of World War I. To compound the tragedy, in August 1915, when his regiment was ordered to France, he destroyed most of his earlier compositions because he thought they were unworthy. One such was the aforementioned Bridges setting, Haste on, my joys! Quite by chance a copy, not in Butterworth’s hand, was discovered by a researcher at the English Folk Dance and Song Society less than a decade ago and it’s good that it has been recorded now. It’s a romantic setting, in 6/8 time, I think. Whilst it’s not as distinctive a song as we find in the famous Housman collection that precedes it on the disc, it’s still well worth hearing and I’m glad it’s come to light at last.

Butterworth was an avid collector of folksongs, gathering some three hundred between 1906 and 1913. However, he only arranged - between 1907 and 1909 - the eleven recorded here, five of which he collected around the town of Billingshurst. I don’t mean in any way to disparage the arrangements when I say that they’re pretty straightforward. By that I mean that Butterworth presents the songs with a fairly unadorned piano part and allows the basic melodies, which are memorable in their own right, to come through and to speak for themselves. In this I think he showed good judgement and taste, avoiding the temptation to gild the lily into which Britten for one was wont to fall.

The collection of four songs entitled Love Blows as the Wind Blows was originally written with string quartet accompaniment and Butterworth subsequently orchestrated three of them – omitting the third song for some reason. In that guise I’ve come across them in Robert Tear’s recording with Vernon Handley but this version, with piano accompaniment, was new to me and is interesting, not just because the songs themselves are good but because it’s thought that the piano arrangement may be by Vaughan Williams.

Butterworth is best known for his Housman songs – all of which are included here – and for the orchestral rhapsody, A Shropshire Lad, which uses a melody from ‘Loveliest of Trees’, the first song of Six Songs from ‘A Shropshire Lad’. These wonderful songs and the five collected under the title Bredon Hill and Other Songs, seem to me to represent Butterworth at his greatest. Not only is the melodic inspiration consistently fine and the piano accompaniments full of interest and colour but also his acute response to and identification with the texts place these songs on a higher plain of accomplishment than anything else on the disc.

In general Mark Stone is an engaging and good advocate for all these songs. He clearly loves them and identifies with them – and he contributes useful booklet notes also. His voice is round, firm and mostly falls pleasingly on the ear and the text is delivered clearly. The one reservation I have is that sometimes the notes, especially sustained notes, don’t always sound to be hit and sustained right in the centre. Perhaps this is the result of too pronounced a desire to be expressive? I certainly thought he was trying a little too hard in ‘Loveliest of Trees’, though, happily, he relaxes more in the rest of that cycle. Perhaps it’s the way he produces some vowels? Whatever the reason, sometimes the delivery, and ones pleasure in it, is slightly marred – I thought I detected some slightly inaccurate pitching at the start of ‘When the Lad for Longing Sighs’, the second song in Bredon Hill and I’m surprised that wasn’t re-taken.

That said, there’s much to enjoy in Stone’s performances. In ‘Is My Team Ploughing’ ( Six Songs from ‘A Shropshire Lad’) he manages the two distinct voices – those of the wistful dead lad and the robust survivor – very well and all the folksong settings come across very well. I also admired his sensitivity in the Oscar Wilde setting, Requiescat, a song that Butterworth composed within two months of the death of his own mother.

Throughout the recital Stephen Barlow is a perceptive and supportive partner, contributing strongly to the success of the enterprise. The well-documented production includes a short film of Butterworth engaging in folk dancing in 1912. You can access that by inserting the CD into your computer.

Overall, this is a valuable and well-produced survey of Butterworth’s songs, which all devotees of English songs should investigate.

-- John Quinn, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Folk Songs from Sussex (11) by George Butterworth
Performer:  Mark Stone (), Stephen Barlow (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912 
Venue:  The Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex 
Length: 1 Minutes 12 Secs. 
I Will Make You Brooches by George Butterworth
Performer:  Mark Stone (), Stephen Barlow (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Venue:  The Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex 
Length: 2 Minutes 26 Secs. 
Love blows as the wind blows by George Butterworth
Performer:  Mark Stone (), Stephen Barlow (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914; England 
Venue:  The Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex 
Length: 11 Minutes 37 Secs. 
I Fear Thy Kisses by George Butterworth
Performer:  Stephen Barlow (Piano), Mark Stone ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1909 
Venue:  The Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex 
Length: 2 Minutes 19 Secs. 
Requiescat by George Butterworth
Performer:  Stephen Barlow (Piano), Mark Stone ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911; England 
Venue:  The Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex 
Length: 3 Minutes 6 Secs. 
Bredon Hill and Other Songs by George Butterworth
Performer:  Stephen Barlow (Piano), Mark Stone ()
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912; England 
Venue:  The Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex 
Length: 15 Minutes 32 Secs. 
[CD-ROM Track]: Geoerge Butterworth Dancing by Unspecified
Period: Modern 
Haste on, my joys!, song for voice & piano by George Butterworth
Performer:  Stephen Barlow (Piano), Mark Stone ()
Period: Post-Romantic 
Venue:  The Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex 
Length: 1 Minutes 44 Secs. 
Songs (6) from "A Shropshire Lad," for voice & piano (or orchestra) by George Butterworth
Performer:  Stephen Barlow (Piano), Mark Stone ()
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1911; England 
Venue:  The Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex 
Length: 13 Minutes 36 Secs. 

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