Malcolm Martineau / Robin Tritschler

No Exceptions, No Exemptions

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The year 2014 brought several recordings marking the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, each with a different emphasis. This one by tenor Robin Tritschler is unique in that it includes songs from all the major combatants -- Britain, France, and Germany -- plus one each from Russia (a fascinating Prokofiev song here called Trust me, Op. 23/3, and Charles Ives' In Flanders Fields). The result is an unusually varied group of songs, nevertheless solidly linked together by virtue of having been composed either during or just before the war, by composers who either fought in the war itself or had their lives significantly shaped by it. The booklet describes not only each composer, but also each text poet; the texts come from a much wider span of time, but it is interesting indeed to explore the meanings each text had for the composer who set it. There are a few songs, like George Butterworth's On the Idle Hill of Summer, that are included in most compilations of this type, and Tritschler gives clear accounts of them, but probably the main attraction is the number of obscure songs, which have an elusive way of coming alive in this context. Several, like Edgar Bainton, are British composers who were stranded by the war in Germany and placed in an internment camp. The nostalgic tone of several of these is understandable and makes a good counterpoint to the songs in more modern styles. The entire collection justifies its two-disc length and gives the war an immediacy that other releases do not, even though most of the texts do not deal directly with the war at all.

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