Like Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst, the leading English composers of the generation preceding his, E.J. Moeran (1894-1950) was fascinated with folk songs of the British Isles and devoted a part of his youth to collecting music and lyrics that had previously existed only in the oral tradition. He arranged about two dozen of them for solo voice and this album includes them all, plus an original folk-like song. Many of these songs are known only because of Moeran's advocacy and arrangements, so this collection should be a stockpile of new riches for fans of English and Irish folk traditions. Most of the songs are grouped according to their provenance; there are sets of songs from Norfolk, Suffolk, and County Kerry. The songs are wonderfully diverse and touch on themes of love (both happy and tragic), sailing, tall tales, and bawdy humor. The tunes are distinctive and memorable, and often melodically or rhythmically idiosyncratic; "Down by the Riverside," in 5/4, is an achingly lyrical example of the abundance of songs from Norfolk using that irregular meter. Although Moeran wasn't particularly systematic, in fact pretty slipshod, in his documentation of old songs (he only notated about 70 in his lifetime, compared to Vaughan Williams' 800), he absorbed their idioms so thoroughly that each of his arrangements has a sense of absolute rightness. They are varied and inventive and far from simplistic, and they provide unobtrusive but artful settings in which the melodies are heard to the best effect. The stark austerity of the piano part for "Lonely Waters," for example, is perfectly suited to the desolate sadness of the text and allows the gorgeous melody to take center stage. Baritone Marcus Farnsworth and tenor Adrian Thompson have pleasant, unmannered voices that are well-suited to the material, and their singing has character and grace. John Talbot provides an idiomatic and understated accompaniment. The sound of the BMS CD is clean and natural.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Six Folksongs from Norfolk|
|Six Suffolk Folksongs|
|Songs from County Kerry|