This Vaughan Williams recital makes an unusually satisfying impression, and it may not be immediately clear why. There's quite a bit of unfamiliar material, some of it in unusual versions for which there was no pressing need. But the whole thing hangs together, creates a mood of intimacy, and draws you into the composer's world. At the center is the titular set of songs on poems by Robert Louis Stevenson, an early indication of the instincts of this composer for directly accessible, lyrical poetry with a pastoral bent. The nine poems are convincing entries in the long tradition of wanderer poems, and tenor James Gilchrist catches exactly the right straightforward quality. Sample anywhere in the cycle, perhaps the truly Schubertian "The Infinite Shining Heavens." Elsewhere you get a taste of Vaughan Williams' fondness for the viola (here the fine Philip Dukes), of some unusual works (the Romance for viola and piano was a work found after Vaughan Williams' death), of his circle ("Rhosymedre," from the set of Three Preludes Founded on Welsh Hymn-Tunes, was arranged from its organ original by critic Richard Morrison), and of the precision of his engagement with folk music in general. The Six Studies in English Folk Song were arranged from their cello originals by the composer. All the music comes from the first part of Vaughan Williams' career and hangs together beautifully. The gentle, subtle accompaniments by Anna Tilbrook are key to the whole operation, and her partnership with Gilchrist is evolving into one of the all-time greats. Highly recommended, even for those not particularly fond of Vaughan Williams.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Songs of Travel, for tenor & piano|
|Six Studies in English Folk Song|
|Four Hymns, for Tenor, Piano, & Viola obbligato|