Notes and Editorial Reviews
This album includes fourteen world-première recordings - ten of works by Holst and four by Vaughan Williams. 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of The Ralph Vaughan Williams Society in June 1994. The Society and its recording subsidiary, Albion Records, are delighted to celebrate that with our first collaboration with the Holst Society, founded in May 2017.
The two composers were not just the best of friends but also close musical colleagues; they would go off on walking holidays and ‘field trips’ and the cover photograph for the album records a blissful moment on a summer’s day from just such an adventure. The recording alternates the two composers, beginning with an early set of six songs by Holst, followed by Vaughan Williams’s rarely recorded song cycle Along the Field for voice and violin. We contrast the two composers in settings of cradle songs. A series of folk songs is followed by Holst’s Four Songs for Voice and Violin. The album concludes with the ‘contest’ to set Darest Thou Now O Soul, Walt Whitman’s famous poem from ‘Sea Drift’. Vaughan Williams won that contest, but these first recordings enable us to make our own judgment.
Mary Bevan MBE is a winner of the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artist award and UK Critics’ Circle Award for Exceptional Young Talent in music. She has performed many operatic roles at ENO and at opera houses all over the world. Roderick Williams OBE is one of the most sought after baritones of his generation. His numerous recordings include Vaughan Williams, Berkeley and Britten operas for Chandos and an extensive repertoire of English song with pianist Iain Burnside for both Naxos and Albion Records. Jack Liebeck’s 2002 debut album, Works for Violin & Piano with Katya Apekisheva, was the Telegraph CD of the Week and nominated for a Classical Brit Award. His Dvorak recording won him the 2010 Classical Brit Award – Young Artist of the Year - and his Brahms Violin Sonatas was received with critical acclaim William Vann is a multiple-prize winning accompanist and conductor, He is the Director of Music at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, and the founder and Artistic Director of the London English Song Festival.
All the songs on this disc are worth getting to know. I think there’s a case to be made that the album does an even greater service to Holst than to Vaughan Williams. After all, quite a number of VWs songs are well known – and over the years Albion Records have brought even more of them in from the cold. However, Holst’s work in the genre represents a much less familiar side of his output. Indeed, I was astonished to learn that he wrote as many as 97 songs, but only 42 of them have been recorded – this disc has advanced that number with 10 recorded premieres. Not counting the two folksong arrangements, there are 16 Holst songs here and even now, 75 years after his death, five of these remain unpublished.
Both composers receive splendid advocacy here from Mary Bevan and Roderick Williams. The contributions of Jack Liebeck and William Vann are no less distinguished. Presentation is excellent, with the full texts provided and valuable notes. Deborah Spanton’s engineering reports the voices and instruments very pleasingly in the sympathetic acoustic of Potton Hall.
This welcome disc celebrates the friendship between Vaughan Williams and Holst by shining a light on less familiar items from their respective outputs, all of which are well worth hearing, especially in these excellent performances.
– MusicWeb International