Roderick Williams / Iain Burnside

The English Song Series, Vol. 20: George Butterworth

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George Butterworth came of age just before World War I and was a friend and creative associate of Ralph Vaughan Williams. He was killed by a German sniper at the Battle of the Somme. The discovery of British folk music in which both he and Vaughan Williams were inspired by the researcher Cecil Sharp finds some of its most beautifully distilled expression in the three sets of songs sampled on this release. The two sets of settings of poems from A.E. Housman's volume A Shropshire Lad are actually more "folklike" than the Folk Songs from Sussex, which are based on folk song melodies and derive their appeal partly by pushing them just slightly in directions in which they don't want to go. The Housman songs are among the most beautiful of any settings of the work of this poet, who has been very popular among English song composers, with an intense melancholy that only intensifies as one considers that the war poem "The lads in their hundreds," for example, would soon describe Butterworth himself. The Folk Songs from Sussex, with their pert songs of courtship, are more humorous. They include "Seventeen Come Sunday" (track 8), which in more uncouth America evolved into I'll Be Sixteen Next Sunday. Baritone Roderick Williams' performances are an absolute joy throughout, and his easy way with the light yet subtle tone of the folk songs ought to be commended to singers in all voice ranges. Naxos, presumably pleading poverty, offers the song texts only online but somehow finds room for a 24-page, full-color booklet of advertising. Fortunately, Williams' diction is clear, and the engineering at Suffolk's Potton Hall is top-notch.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Six Songs from A Shropshire Lad
1 2:34
2 1:16
3 2:00
4 1:17
5 2:12
6 3:23
Folk Songs from Sussex
7 1:45
8 1:39
9 1:30
10 1:50
11 1:04
Bredon Hill and Other Songs from A Shropshire Lad
12 4:38
13 2:36
14 1:40
15 3:31
16 1:41
17 2:08
18 1:51
19 2:56
Folk Songs from Sussex
20 1:18
21 2:06
22 1:40
23 1:28
24 1:33
25 2:12
blue highlight denotes track pick