American Record Guide

Here are 37 songs by three 20th Century British composers—13 by Ernest John Moeran, 16 by Warlock, and seven by Geoffrey Stern (1935-2005). Warlock’s songs are the best of the lot.

The program begins with Moeran’s arrangements of Six Folksongs from Norfolk ( 1923) and continues with Seven Poems of James Joyce (1929) including ‘Strings in the Earth and Air’, the title used to market this program. Warlock’s Candlelight—A Cycle of Nursery Jingles (1923) is a collection of 12 little gems, most of them less than a minute long. His Three Songs (1916-17) and ‘The Fox’ (1930) are particularly delicious. Stern was a friend of Martyn-West, and the style of the songs heard here ( Three Wordsworth Songs of 1953 and Four Songs of James Joyce of 2001-5) is very much in the tradition of Moeran and Warlock.

Martyn-West’s voice is a classic—almost generic—English choir tenor, closer to the sound of Gilchrist and Kennedy than Padmore; it’s a sweet, gentle voice without much variety of color or dynamics from song to song—other than mimicking the voice of an old woman in Warlock’s ‘There Was an Old Woman” and he never really sings louder than ( mf ). It is, nevertheless, a truly lovely voice that is well suited to these songs. Foster is an able and responsive collaborator.

Notes and texts included.

—R Moore