Vaughan Williams did not so much compose as collect the songs on this disc, that is, he took them down as musical dictation from aged folk singers who themselves were not the composers but merely the transmitters of the songs. All Vaughan Williams really did was clean them up a bit and give them piano accompaniments, but in doing so he gave the songs a whole audience and a whole new life. These 21 songs recorded for EMI in 1976 by tenor Robert Tear and pianist Philip Ledger come from Wessex, East Anglia, Herefordshire, France, and even Newfoundland, and they are sweet with the juice of life. Vaughan Williams' accompaniments, even the addition of the violin in three songs, are strong, solid, and discrete, always supporting the melody but never getting in its way. Tear is a sensitive singer who clearly relishes the repertoire, and his performances are heartfelt and sincere. Ledger faithfully stands behind Tear, and Hugh Bean provides a lovely violin obbligato in his three songs. As a bonus, EMI provides a 1963 recording of Vaughan Williams' Six Studies in English Folk Song performed on viola by the composer's friend Jean Stewart accompanied by pianist Daphne Ibbott. In both cases, the stereo sound is clear, warm, and immediate, though the later recording is a bit lusher and the earlier recording is a tad closer.
AllMusic Review by James Leonard
Bushes and briars, folk song for male chorus or chorus or voice & piano (Folksongs from the Eastern Counties No. 1)
The Saviour's Love, carol for chorus or voice & piano (Traditional Carols from Herefordshire No. 11)
|Studies in English Folk Song (6) for cello (or violin, viola, clarinet) & piano|