Dutton's Her Song is a collection of British orchestral songs as performed by the outstanding English soprano Susan Gritton with a responsive and well-recorded accompaniment provided by the BBC Concert Orchestra under Martyn Brabbins. Gritton's bill of fare consists of a heady mix of art songs and arias from Edward Elgar, Hubert Parry, and John Ireland; single items by little known composers John Sanders and Eric Gritton -- her grandfather, it turns out -- round out the program. Gritton's singing is consistently strong throughout the program, with a clear and radiant tone, and her pronunciation is exquisite; although you can download the texts from Dutton's website, if you are an average English speaker you won't need them.
Gritton is without a doubt the star of this show and the main reason to listen. Her Song contains the largest concentration of Elgar's orchestral songs on disc, and that is a mixed blessing; "Like to the Damask Rose"; the Song Cycle, Op. 59; and the two arias from Grania and Diarmid and The Kingdom, respectively, are all very nice, but the others are quite Victorian, conservative, and rather stalwart and stodgy. Parry's aria from his opera Guenever -- never before recorded -- barely rises above that level, but the Eric Gritton and Sanders items are enchanting. The selection of nine orchestrated John Ireland songs are the strongest works here, for the quality of texts, settings, the fine orchestrations of Graham Parlett, and Susan Gritton's deft and sensitive characterization of them. Even considering these positives, particularly in the United States, few apart from Gritton's fans will be lining up at the door to obtain Dutton's Her Song, but for those who might run into it, the disc really isn't as dull and hoary as its program might seem from the outside. The Ireland items in particular are mildly impressionistic in style and make for some surprisingly good listening.