|REVIEWS: divine art dda 25048 Gossiana|
This fascinating CD from Divine Art attempts, with conspicuous success, to recreate his art between the wars in accordance with the style brought to them, quite often accompanied, as here, by a male voice quartet. I do not wish to appear superior, but I enjoyed this CD much more that I thought I would: here are some lovely songs by 20 th -century British composers, many of whom write with Goss specifically in mind, notably by Peter Warlock and E J Moeran, alongside traditional ballads and sea songs, French and Elizabethan songs, and lieder by Mozart, Schubert and Franz.
hroughout, Giles Davies sings impeccably, with a fine sense of style, and is admirably accompanied by Steven Devine. The recording quality is also excellent, and performance notes and texts are included. This is a really delightful CD, which is wholeheartedly recommended.
INTERNATIONAL RECORD REVIEW:
However, Goss is more than a relic rescued from the ‘quaint' world of English music making 80 years ago. In restoring his repertoire and hopefully musical reputation, the baritone Giles Davies and the Goss Male Quartet with pianist Steven Devine illuminate an important tradition in English singing that is almost lost.
So Goss sang English folk songs – Barbara Allen, Billy Boy, and the Agincourt Song – alongside Mozart, Schubert, and above all the new music of his friends Peter Warlock and E.J.Moeran. Davies and the Goss Male Quartet have recorded a generous selection from this repertoire. If the English folk-songs tend to wander on the darker, sadder side of the tradition – The Three Ravens is as blood-chilling as anything in the repertoire – the Mozart and Schubert aren't exactly brimming over with sunlight. Davies finds something deeply disturbing in Totengrabers Heimweh, dropping his voice as low and as deep as the grave that Schubert's gravedigger is excavating.
There's something pretty nasty in the woodshed in Warlock's songs too, giving the lie to that critical canard that English song-writing between the two World Wars was just pleasingly pastoral, ‘cowpat music' being the term of abuse. In Warlock's version of O Mistress Mine, which the composer dedicated to Goss, the harmonies seem to slide us into a bluesy nightclub and as the song progresses the vocal part appears to part company with the piano writing in a most unsettling manner.
Two songs by Moeran are elegantly built out of the folk tradition, and nicely sung too, but the real treat is Rebecca Clarke's June Twighlight. Part of Goss's romantic life, Clarke is scarcely a footnote in the history of English music, but hers is a distinctive voice, with adventurous vocal lines that must even have taxed Goss, for whom they were probably written. June Twighlight was dedicated to Goss, as effectively is this CD. How sad that so few of the singer's own recordings have survived. That is all the more reason to cherish this recording. It's not John Goss, but it's as near as we are likely to get to a fine and generous artist and a lost tradition of music-making.
This CD is a celebration & dedication to this wonderfully talented character & the items chosen are perhaps many that Goss himself might have included in his recitals. The 28 tracks include Early English Ballads, Elizabethan Songs, Lieder by Mozart & Schubert, English Songs (mainly by Warlock) & Traditional Ballads & Sea Songs.
For Giles Davis, this is obviously a labour of love & he manages to squeeze out all the emotional & musical expressiveness of the repertoire in question. Stephen Devine & the Goss Male Quartet lend sympathetic support throughout. This is certainly a fitting tribute to one of Britain's most lovable yet astoundingly neglected artists.
THE PETER WARLOCK SOCIETY NEWSLETTER:
In his Anthology of Song , published in 1926, Goss unashamedly states ‘ It is simply a collection of songs I am fond of. Most singers could compile a similar collection, and many singers should'. This CD is a similar collection of Giles Davies's from the repertoire of John Goss, and incorporates his ‘Goss Male Quartet' just as Goss used his Cathedral Male-voice quartet, created from fellow singers in the choir of Westminster Cathedral under R R Terry.
From the choice of Warlock, my only query is, why has ‘The lady's birthday' been omitted? Surely, it is one of the most hilarious of Warlock songs: ‘ A song sung by Mr Platt at Sadler's Wells and arranged (at least 150 years later) for Mr Goss and the Cathedral Male-voice Quartet by peter Warlock at Eynsford on Derby Day 1925.' Maybe they are considering it for a volume two!
Throughout, the singing is exemplary, the diction faultless, and a wide range of tone and colour coupled with the wide range of repertoire means that one's mind is always kept captivated. The pianist, Steven Devine, also has a vivid sense of colour and there were moments when I wondered how many different instruments he was playing, the Elizabethan songs are almost lute-like, and the end of Schubert's ‘The grave-diggers longing for home' has the depth and resonance of a real double bass.
There are early and traditional English and French ballads, and sea songs (an especially moving ‘Shenandoah' of which a 78rpm record Warlock sent to Delius, and in this recording incorporates a touching new coda by Danny Gillingwater, in which the ‘rolling river' continues to ripple gently as the voyagers depart).
There are German Lieder, and English songs, including some of the songs Warlock dedicated to Goss, and others by Moeran, and Rebecca Clarke, together with Van Dieren's ‘Der Asra', a favourite of Goss's that echoes Warlock's interest in Bartók and cultivates three subtly contrasting voices of a narrator telling the story of a ravishingly beautiful Sultan's daughter who asks a slave where he is from , only for the slave to ehar that his brethren, the Asra, are those who die for love.