|REVIEWS: historic sound ddh 27811 Peter Warlock collected 78s|
There are no fewer than three versions of the Capriol Suite included – by the London Chamber Orchestra under Anthony Bernard, the Constant Lambert String Orchestra, and Joseph Szigeti with Nikita Magaloff at the piano – as well as the Serenade (Barbirolli), Purcell arranged Warlock (Pasquier Trio, Griller Quartet), and a whole host of songs (featuring Peter Dawson, John Goss, John Armstrong, Parry Jones, Roy Henderson, Nancy Evans, Oscar Natzke, the English Singers and others). The transfers are good and so are the notes.
The fine soloist in that version is John Goss, a good friend of Warlock's both in and out of the pubs where the composer caroused in the last years of his relatively short life. Goss is heard in several songs of the collection, singing both in a reedy “average man” voice astonishingly good effect ( Oh Good Ale ), and in more appropriately “posh” professional tone, with lute accompaniment in four selection based on Elizabethan models. These latter from 1928 were rare experiments of their time, progenitors of modern albums by the likes of Marco Beasley and Charles Daniels. The action in Diana Poulton's lute is caught more than the instrument itself, but Goss's cantabile line and textual enunciation are the real thing (and he's no slouch in the figurations, either). For the rest, there's plenty of Henderson (insightfully Sir Andrew Aguecheek-foppish in Pieggesnie ), Parry Jones (his large voice did not record well at that time – but there's an edgy version of The Fox), Dennis Noble, John Armstrong, and more: some of the finest British singers of their day, in interpretations of Warlock's songs that often reveal striking differences from one another and from modern versions.
Over on the instrumental CD, Constant Lambert (1937) makes far more of the phrasing in the Capriol Suite than the blank-faced and hurried Anthony Bernard (1931), while an unusually harsh-sounding Joseph Szigeti along with his usual accompanist, Nikita Magaloff (1936), perform the former's arrangements of three movements. it's surprisingly faithful, as four as it goes, though Szigeti's drooping diminuendi in the Pavane would have no doubt drawn a scathing comment in private from the composer, had he lived to hear it. (Warlock was eloquent on such matters, and not above personal attacks on those he considered musically insensitive to his requirements. He once, for instance referred to Bernard as “that emasculated offspring of a wet dream and a virgin's menstrue.”) John Barbirolli does a marvelous job of bringing out the songful quality of the Serenade for Strings, while stressing its Delian lineage. Lambert (1937), heard again, eliminated most (but not all) of the portamenti and frequent dynamic gradients of Glorious John, to good if occasionally choppy effect. One version of The Curlew is included: Soames again, this time with Léon Goossens and the Aeolian Quartet (1950), in a superb reading that misses none of the work's obsessive despondency and dark wisdom. (Another version, from 1931, with Constant Lambert and John Armstrong, was omitted for reasons of space.)
Among the rarities heard here is Cecil Cope (c. 1941) in six of the 12 nursery jingles that make up Warlock's Candlelight , while the haunting The First Mercy is sung affectingly in 1950 (and with fine training in evidence) by “Master Billy Neeley, boy soprano.” The Pasquier Trio (1935) and the Griller Quartet (1947) each perform one of Warlock's Purcell arrangements, to excellent effect: the Pasquiers with firm tone and excellent balance, the Grillers less stern, more intimate, yet absolutely clear in all four parts.
The sound, provided by Pristine Audio, is very good, especially when one takes into account that problems inherent with the gritty original discs – a common enough complaint about wartime 78s. Engineering quality was not always adequate, even for individual artists such ar Parry Jones, much less for choral groups with featured singers. A moderate amount of gate filtering was used by Pristine Audio, with some of the edges between filtered and non-filtered material always showing through occasionally, as does the odd scratch, presumably left in to preserve the constant frequency response. Some will no doubt find the filtering too interventionist; but I've heard a couple of these same 78s, and their sound, untouched, simply wouldn't be tolerable to most ears – as these issues certainly are. Perhaps Pristine Audio should put up a before/after sampling on its Web site, just to show how sensitively it's handled matters.
The liner notes are excellent. My only disappointment is that individual movements from such orchestral selections as the Capriol Suite and The Curlew were not banded.
If it isn't clear yet, this is Hall of Fame material, in my opinion. For the music, the interpretations, the sound, the clear-sighted editing involved in choosing what was included: It is a monumental enterprise that deserves no less.
The edition begins with what is probably Peter Warlock's best-known work, the Capriol Suite. There are three recordings here. This first is by Anthony Bernard and the London Chamber Orchestra made in 1931. I agree with Davies's preference for Constant Lambert's 1937 version, placed four tracks later. Although he takes only slightly longer, Lambert is far more relaxed and his phrasing has as spacious air about it. Nevertheless, it is good to have Bernard represented and the sound is very acceptable. The essence of Lambert's interpretation lies in the ‘Pavane' – this is beautiful music and it is performed with great tenderness. I once attended a funeral where the organist was asked to perform this piece – I found him transcribing at sight from the orchestral score – it makes a superb organ voluntary. How strange then that in the Serenade for Strings, recorded on the same day, Lambert's Orchestra sounds plain and rather loud. The comparative version by John Barbirolli is nine years older and shows its age, yet the conductor is far more subtle. This Serenade is not particularly melodic and tends to throw fragments of tunes in a continuous line – very much in the English style of the time – Delius sometimes did this and later Tippett refined this method in a personal and very different way.
Among the instrumental pieces on the first disc is yet another Capriol Suite. This is a real curiosity – a version for violin and piano of three of the six movements arranged and played by Josef Szigeti. Good for Warlock completists and intriguing because it seems to have caught Szigeti on an off day – he starts under pitch (I don't think the original 78 is to blame) and his violin sound is over-forward and a bit rough. Nikita Magaloff is very much in the background.
It is always good to hear the Griller Quartet and its recording of Purcell's four-part Fantasia from the days of Decca's ffrr system is probably the most realistic in sonic terms of the whole compilation.
Warlock's remarkable song-cycle “The Curlew” is presented in the clearly recorded HMV version of 1950 featuring the tenor René Soames with Léon Goossens and the Aeolian String Quartet. The sensitivity of Goossens is no less effective in creating the extraordinary atmosphere of this piece than the firm, dramatic voice of Soames. It is unfortunate that the general perceived nature of this work is one of darkness and depression – true this reflected the composer's state of mind at the time, but it would be sad indeed if it dissuaded potential listeners from experiencing the amazing beauty of these settings of four poems by W. B. Yeats. The booklet note explains that this rare recording "known only to devoted Warlockians" was favoured for use in the present album since the historic 1931 version sung by John Armstrong and directed by Constant Lambert is already available on compact disc. As this is perhaps Warlock's most famous work, it is good that such justice has been done. Soames's phrasing is exquisite and he brings off the demanding unaccompanied section in the final song superbly.
The second disc is entirely vocal and contains mostly songs sung by famous names of the first half of the twentieth-century. One choral piece with contralto and tenor soloists appears three times, however: “Corpus Christi”, recorded by The English singers (1927); BBC Chorus/Ann Wood/Peter Pears/Leslie Woodgate (1936); Festival Singers/Flora Nielsen/René Soames/Leslie Woodgate (1950). There is extraordinary contrast here. The unnamed soloists in the 1927 version are excellent and their diction is very clear although the choir's intonation leaves something to be desired. This takes three minutes. In 1936 a less interesting performance takes four minutes and there is enthusiasm for Pears's contribution. It is sung well enough – but I find the most interesting aspect to be the opportunity of hearing this well-known voice displaying a very youthful timbre. In 1950 the same conductor takes nearly five minutes. Soames, three days after recording “The Curlew”, is superb. This is the most convincing interpretation of the three, yet it must be said that the words can be heard clearest of all in the 1927 version.
The songs are grouped by soloist and it is fascinating when pieces are duplicated and styles can be closely compared. “Captain Stratton's Fancy” is a splendid example with Peter Dawson, Roy Henderson and Oscar Natzke taking contrasting views. Dawson's comforting full tone is ideal; Henderson is lighter in touch with more emphasis and fashioning of words to delightful effect while Natzke provides the only version with orchestral accompaniment and he seems to sound the most 'English' of the three. His phrasing is often extravagant but always convincing – the recording also projects his voice very firmly.
Each singer has a characteristic style and I doubt any vocalist today would attempt to adopt their entirely suitable, very English approach so typical of the early 20th-century. John Armstrong sings two songs: “Sleep” and “Chop Cherry” but it is interesting to note that these were recorded in 1931 with the International String Quartet – therefore presumably at the same time as he partnered them at the 'Curlew' sessions. I don't entirely understand why he is described as a baritone for these songs yet he sang as tenor for “The Curlew”. Armstrong seems to employ a touch more vibrato than most singers – but this is, in general, used very sparingly by everyone represented here and it is to be commended since it is known that Warlock did not care for that technique.
It is not really possible clearly to describe the differences in timbre of the various singers – Parry Jones has a hint of the young Pears in his voice and he also tends to be dramatic in expression (there is a hint of agony in his version of “Sleep” where Armstrong is more comforting). Roy Henderson has a very recognisable tone and he always renders the music with firm phrasing that seems to speak of an Englishman of the period, confident of all that he is expressing in song. Dennis Noble in his more recent (1951) recordings has a gentle, calm style – he is given only thoughtful pieces to sing, but he does not overstress the dramatic moments in “The Fox”. John Goss – a good friend of Warlock – is perhaps the most forgotten of the experts in English song and he sings 'authentic' arrangements of four Elizabethan texts. These were arranged for piano by Warlock but here Goss is accompanied by Diana Poulton's lute. Goss also contributes a jolly drinking song, “Oh Good Ale” accompanied by a male-voice quartet.
The transfers from 78 are exemplary – just a touch of residuary background noise is audible – greater in older recordings of course – but this is a good sign since it is obvious that over-correction has been avoided and final fades are neatly achieved. Inevitably there are moments of distortion on some of the older 78s that could not be cured and sometimes the sound is very dry; I would not have objected to electronic 'warming' but I know that there is a purist school of thought that thinks this technique unacceptable.
Somehow the use of period recordings brings us nearer to the strange world of Philip Heseltine, always known as Peter Warlock. He was sometimes depressed but was apparently great company and had varied interests. It is well-known that the occult fascinated him and this is presumed to have been a factor in his use of the pseudonym by which he is remembered. He had an outgoing side to him also and it is worth remembering that he edited an anthology on drinking called “Merry-go Down” subtitled, 'for the delectation of serious topers'. Once again he chose to use a pseudonym, this time 'Rab Noolas' (one does not need to be skilful at anagrams to solve that one!).
In all this is a fitting memorial to Peter Warlock. These transfers have obviously been made with exceptional care and this is an important historic release.
It is perhaps, indicative of just how strange and unacceptable Heseltine's music was to the British audience at large that only three of these records were issued in his lifetime: John Barbirolli's sentimental but quite toughing rendition of the Serenade for Strings , and the five songs (four of them comprising one 10-inch disc) by this close friend, baritone John Goss. Goss comes in for some swollen and empurpled praise from annotator Giles Davies, and his crisp, lively interpretations are certainly quite good, but the voice itself strikes me as gray and nasal. In four of them, he is accompanied by lutenist Diana Poulton, playing what seems to me a very strange-sounding instrument, more akin to a baritone ukulele than a lute! Of course, this may have been due to the very primitive recording techniques, but I'm not so sure.
There are three versions of Warlock's popular Capriol Suite , two full orchestra versions and an abridged arrangement for violin and piano. The latter is played by the celebrated Josef Szigeti sounding, as Davies aptly points out, uncharacteristically rough of tone. Davies is extremely hard on the earlier version of Capriol , possibly because Warlock himself detest Anthony Bernard's conducting, and laudatory of Constant Lambert's, but I found the edginess of Bernard's version more emotionally affecting than Lambert's, even though the London Chamber Orchestra plays with rough tone and poor ensemble blend under Bernard. Lambert's Serenade is a cool reading, cleaner in style but lacking Barbirolli's feeling. The two Purcell arrangements sound oddly heavy-handed to modern ears.
There is not enough space here to run over every single recording of the songs, though pride of place goes to this rare 1950 version of The Curlew . René Soames, a character tenor who sang secondary operatic roles under Sir Thomas Beecham, show himself to be an outstanding interpreter, and in this realm of song interpretation he is quite the superb artist, drawing out (along with the Aeolian String Quartet) the dark, moody qualities of this song cycle. The quality of the missing Armstrong version may be gleaned from the two songs ( Sleep and Chop Cherry ) that he corded with the International String Quartet as a filler. His voice has a prominent flicker-vibrato, a quality that Heseltine-Warlock himself disliked in singers, but it's more attractive than Goss's and he interprets quite well. Parry Jones, who is pleased to favor us with no less than six songs, had a nice voice but a somewhat whiny timbre. The legendary Peter Dawson sings splendidly in his version of Captain Stratton's Fancy , which I prefer to Roy Henderson's , but I liked Oscar Natzke's version just as much, if not a bit better. Davies raves about the early, 1927 version of Corpus Christi as being “the most sinister and strange.” Well, of course it sounds sinister and strange, it's pressed off-center! This results in that bizarre phenomenon known to 78 collectors as a “swinging copy,” which was not corrected for transfer to CD. I personally loved the 1936 recording, with the contralto Ann Wood and a very young Peter Pears as tenor. The last version, with Flora Nielsen and Soames, is too fast and completely misses the feeling of the piece.
Cecil Cope does a great job on the Six Nursery Jingles . Davies didn't care much at all for Henderson, lamenting that Goss should have still been churning out Warlock discs, but by and large I like his firmer, richer baritone voice, and even though one or two interpretations are a little stiff, Gerald Moore's piano makes up in expression for what Henderson lacks. Nancy Evans had a rather dull-timbred voice and sounds quite flat. There is a charming story-within-a-story in the booklet as the compilers were able to contact one of the members of the Truro County Girl's School Choir, unidentified as such on the original HMV disc, about their recording of Rest Sweet Nymphs , a charming performance. Boy soprano Billy Neely does a surprisingly splendid job on The First Mercy . Dennis Noble is also superb in his two songs.
As for the sound, I admit to being disappointed by Andrew Rose's proclivity to leave so much record noise in some of the finished products. The incongruity of some clean-up and restoration of missing frequencies and the harsh, grinding quality of the original discs (which, I am sure, were in rough shape when he got them) left a sad impression on me, but these seemed to be limited to the Bernard, Barbirolli, Goss, and some of the Parry Jones sides. Yet overall, I give this set a four-star review. Seldom has Warlock's very personal sound world been so well served on record, and if one prefers one of the modern digital recordings of The Curlew (particularly John Mark Ainsley with the Nash Ensemble on Hyperion 66939 or Andrew Kennedy and the Pavao Quartet on Landor 279) to this one, it will certainly be because of the sonics and not the quality of performance. Generally, very well done and an important set for musicologists as well as collectors.
THE DELIUS SOCIETY NEWSLETTER:
Several movement of Capriol Suite as arranged by Josef Szigeti are here played by JS himself in rather rough style. Very surprising. A performance of The Curlew features René Soames with Leon Goossens and the Aeolina String Quartet recorded in 1950. I was not impressed with Soames' voice, surprisingly. John Goss was a friend of Warlock's and he recorded very little, mostly folk songs, and things like that. Here he is in 1928 singing 5 Warlock songs, and I have to say I didn't care for his voice at all. Roy Henderson sings quite a few of the songs in 1941 with Gerald Moore at the piano, and these I liked much more.
Three items I found especially good are the Six Nursery Jingles sung by Cecil Cope in 1941, Captain Stratton's Fancy recorded in 1939, and Sweet and Kind sung by Parry Jones 1934.
This compilation is a treasure trove of very rare recordings. Grab it before it is deleted. [note: it wont be - divine art]
ALL MUSIC GUIDE:
The major work is Warlock's undervalued song-cycle The Curlew for tenor and instrumental ensemble, heard in the 1952 HMV recording that replaced the very old one made just after Warlock died. René Soames is the highly sensitive singer of W.B. Yeats's haunting lines on unrequited love, with flautist Geoffrey Gilbert, Léon Goossens playing the cor anglais part and the Aeolian Quartet all lending distinguished support under what the labels called the ‘Artistic Direction' of composer Elizabeth Poston. This was one of that famous British Council series of recordings and makes it the more astonishing that this is its first reissue in any form. It may have been superseded since, but many will be pleased to be reminded of its qualities. Among the solo songs, Roy Henderson's delightful accounts of eight of them have been out before, though few will surely cavil at such duplication when there are many more for our delectation. Among some really outstanding things, such as The Fox and The Frost-bound Wood from Dennis Noble, Sleep is heard from Nancy Evans and John Armstrong, although best from Parry Jones whose As ever I saw is another winner: incidentally, if you listen carefully he re-positions himself for the last verse so that when he really lets fly at the end microphone ‘blast' is avoided. Henderson is superior in Captain Stratton's Fancy to Peter Dawson, but both are trumped by a splendid version with orchestra by Oscar Natzke. One unique offering is the nursery jingles recorded by Cecil Cope in 1941 for the BBC Transcription Service.
Instrumentally, Warlock's valuable editorial work is recalled by Fantasias of Purcell that revive Trio Pasquier and Griller Quartet and recordings, and there is a (much less valuable) curiosity, three of the Capriol movements for violin and piano arranged and played by Szigeti. Speaking of Capriol , Anthony Bernard's 1952 version on HMV C4218 would have better displayed both music and conductor than the one included from 20 years earlier; and Lambert's performances will always come up better from their RCA Victor pressings. Transfer quality varies, which is understandable considering the age of much of the material, but it is a pity that the booklet is replete with careless errors and omissions. Did nobody notice a flute in The Curlew ? And older collectors like to know the personnel involved: the Aeolian players in that work – Alfred Cave, Leonard Dight, Watson Forbes and Vivian Joseph – are names still well-remembered. All-in-all, though, this is a valuable issue and would be purchasers should not be deterred from investigating such a comprehensive celebration of the music of a man who was lightly touched by genius.
BRITISH MUSIC SOCIETY NEWS:
This 2CD compilation is not quite complete, in that one recording of the period, the first recording of The Curlew made in 1931 and sung by John Armstrong with an ensemble directed by Constant Lambert, has been omitted for lack of space: it is still available, however, elsewhere – as a download from Pristine Audio. The recordings have been digitally restored and re-mastered by Andrew Rose of Pristine Audio, and were transferred by producer Stephen Sutton, who in the comprehensive 24-page booklet included in the set, contributes some interesting information on the provenance of the recordings and the difficulties faced in transferring them.
The first CD contains orchestral and instrumental works, together with the famous 1950-52 recording of The Curlew , with René Soames and an ensemble directed by Elizabeth Poston. (Of the two soloists included in that ensemble with the Aeolian String Quartet – G. Gilbert (flute) and Leon Goossens (cor anglais) – only Goossens is named; and Poston herself is not mentioned, regrettably.) There are two complete versions for string orchestra of the Capriol Suite (recorded in 1931 and 1937, and conducted respectively by Anthony Bernard and Constant Lambert – the latter performance being rather more professionally accomplished): and a third, shortened version (three movements only – the first, second and sixth) arranged for violin and piano by Josef Szigeti and performed by him, with Nikita Magaloff, in 1936.
In addition to Capriol , there are two versions of the Serenade for string orchestra, recorded c .1928 and in 1937 by John Barbirolli and Constant Lambert respectively (the former conducting with typically expressive warmth and encouraging much soon-to-be-unfashionable portamenti, the latter – recording this piece on the same day as his Capriol – insisting on typically more precise intonation). The CD is completed with performances of two of Warlock's transcriptions – at the time ground-breaking, though now quite outdated – of Purcell's Fantasias for viols: here the Pasquier Trio play Fantasia No.3 in G minor, and the Griller String Quartet play what appears to be a transcription (up a tone) of the Fantasia No.12 in D minor, labeled in this instance as No.9.
The second CD is devoted to vocal and choral works – some thirty-five items, of which thirty are solo songs. Among the five choral pieces, there are three versions of Corpus Christi : from c .1927, 1936 (with the young Peter Pears as one of the two soloists) and 1950 – the latter performance conducted by Leslie Woodgate, perhaps the most technically accomplished of the three, though not necessarily the most atmospheric. Of the solo songs, the two largest groups are those contributed by tenor Parry Jones and baritone Roy Henderson, who perform six and eight songs respectively. Of their partners, only Henderson's are named: Eric Gritton (not Griffen, as printed here) and Gerald Moore. Also prominently featured among the singers is baritone John Goss, who was both good friend and colleague of Warlock and Moeran, and contributes one drinking song – The Toper's Song, sung in partnership with his Cathedral Male Voice Quartet – and four of Warlock's arrangements of Elizabethan lute songs, sung here with lutenist Diana Poulton. (Only one of the Elizabethan songs' original composers, Ferrabosco, is named – and only in the booklet notes.)
Prominent among the tracks are three versions of what is perhaps Warlock's most famous song, Sleep – only one version of which, despite booklet-notes writer Giles Davis's clear assertion that there are two here, is sung by John Armstrong – with the International String Quartet; and two versions of The Fox , Warlock's last original song and one of his most bleakly effective. Among other soloists not yet named, both Nancy Evans and Dennis Noble make memorable contributions – all with Gerald Moore – and bass Oscar Natzke concludes the CD with one of the most delightful offerings of all: a spirited rendering, with orchestral accompaniment, of Captain Stratton's Fancy.
This new CD compilation, sponsored financially by the Peter Warlock Society, does not entirely replace the Society's earlier compilation, issued on cassette tape in 1994 on the Ensemble label, of Warlock recordings made between 1931 and 1970 – an anthology also compiled from John Bishop's collection. For while there is some overlap between the two releases, the new one is both more extensive and more complete in its coverage of a shorter period, and represents therefore essential listening for all devoted Warlock enthusiasts, given especially the quality of its transfers. All the performances are certainly ‘of their time', and these recordings retain their value as documents of artistic achievement and undoubted historical importance; but for one reviewer at least there is no doubt that, judging by the evidence on offer, more recent first-class performances of this repertoire lose nothing in comparison.
LIVERPOOL DAILY POST:
These have been expertly complied from old discs in the collection of the late John Bishop. Warlock was a Bohemian of the 1920s (real name Philip Heseltine) who took his life in 1930 at the age of 36, but not before he had done valuable work on early music transcriptions, and composed a little orchestral music and some fine songs.
The Capriol Suite appears on these two discs from Divine Art, conducted by Anthony Bernard and Constant Lambert. Lambert and John Barbirolli each direct the Serenade for Strings.
There are two Purcell arrangements and his masterpiece The Curlew, famously performed by René Soames, Leon Goossens, and the Aeolian Quartet, recorded in 1950. And it is the vocal side which makes these discs particularly interesting for me, because we have a roll call of British singers of the 1930s and 1940s – Peter Dawson, John Goss, Parry Jones, Roy Henderson, Nancy Evans, Dennis Noble and more.
A collection of outstanding and well loved English songs.
CLASSIC RECORD COLLECTOR:
We start with Anthony Bernard's 1931 Decca Capriol Suite with his London Chamber Orchestra, vigorous but a bit rough and rhythmically suspect. With Barbirolli's 1928 NGS disc of the Serenade we encounter a different class of string playing, beautifully terraced and tapered. Szigeti's 1936 Columbia of Capriol convinces neither as violinism nor as a transcription, a rare misfire by this artist. Lambert's Serenade is typically unsentimental but I prefer Barbirolli. Better is the companion 1937 HMV of Capriol , getting the balance of sturdiness and lyricism right. Two Purcell Fantasies by the Trio Pasquier and the Grillers are each superb in their individual ways. René Soames sings sensitively and clearly in The Curlew from 1950 and 1952, with Geoffrey Gilbert, Leon Goossens and the Aeolian Quartet. At the time it was the best version but was soon overtaken by Alexander Young et al , who etched the song in stronger colours.
Disc 2 starts with Peter Dawson's enjoyable, well enunciated but slightly subdued Captain Stratton's Fancy . Six tracks featuring John Goss do not add greatly to my joy; his voice is mediocre and the lute playing on the four Elizabethan song arrangements is such as to make Beckmesser sound like Bream. His colleague on the pioneering version of Corpus Christi are a little wobbly. John Armstrong's interpretations of Sleep and Chop Cherry with the International String Quartet are more enjoyable; and Parry Jones, nicely accompanied by W.T. Best, is suitable dramatic in The Fox , excellent in Sleep , Take o take those lips away, Sweet and Kind and The Passionate Shepherd , and at his peak in As ever I saw , one of his most spontaneous achievements. A second Corpus Christi , conducted by Leslie Woodgate, has the young Peter Pears in his first recording – very nice, as is the ‘flip side', A Cornish Christmas Carol . Cecil Cope is delightful in Six Nursery Jingles .
With eight songs by Roy Henderson, we find a singer fully in command of his material and wholly devoted to putting it across. Whether in the throwaway Milkmaids , the extrovert Captain Stratton's Fancy , the strong sentiment of My Own Country or the delicacy of Piggesnie , Henderson is the complete stylist. Nancy Evans's rather ‘straight' tone is best heard in Sleep , which she delivers with great feeling. After a girls' school choir in Rest Sweet Nymphs and a touching account of The First Mercy by Master Billy Neeley, we get another very good Woodgate Corpus Christi , with Flora Nielsen and Soames. Dennis Noble's admirably ‘forward' production and crystal-clear enunciation are ideal for The Fox but The Frostbound Wood is even finer, very affecting. Oscar Natzke's really rollicking Captain Stratton's fancy with orchestra is a ripe and round record to end with.
The 22-page booklet looks comprehensive at a casual glance but reveals regrettable and avoidable flaws. ** One fact is worth two or three embarrassingly dubious opinions but here the ration is reversed and guff quotient in the annotations rises too high for my taste. No authors of texts are listed, although some such as Bruce Blunt were Warlock's friends, and no composers except Purcell are given for the arrangements. Gilbert's name is omitted, along with those of string ensemble members. Eric Gritton, one of Henderson's partners, is called ‘Griffen' and Best is described as ‘anonymous piano accompaniment' – his playing is anything but that. Transfers are generally good, although I have heard better versions of some items and a few discs are worn. The set is recommended, despite its flaws, for its omnium gatherum qualities.
** [we regret the mis-spelling of Eric Gritton's name in the booklet - purely the fault of divine art and not the note-writers, due to transcribing from a blurred label and not double-checking. The other 'flaws' noted by Potter (but note other reviews found the notes excellent) are also our repsonsibility. As to the opinions expressed by the note-writers - these are opinions and thus subjective, whether Mr Potter agrees with them or not.]