Gramophone

Not ‘fashionable’ perhaps, but a composer sensitive both to words and music. John Jeffreys’ 80th birthday falls this year. He has the music of the older generations (Ireland, Gurney, Finzi) in his veins, and has his own distinctive individuality. With a few exceptions – almost startling in context – Jeffrey’s songs move at an even, untroubled pace, vocal lines and piano accompaniment modestly simple, though not unfeeling and not banal. Musically, there would seem a conviction that there is still material to harvest quite naturally from the ground that fed his predecessors. In feeling ( this one can only hazard), there is a sense of sympathy with those shadowy yearnings and joys (no doubt known well enough to them inwardly) of poets long out of fashion, biding their time, perhaps, till the scornful generations have passed.

The elders were not men of fashion either. With Housman and Hardy so high in their literary affections, they were not “modern”, yet they caught so surely a flavour of their time, an underlying sadness (and a latent passion) conditioned by the Great Warof 1914. Remarkable, too, that Housman should so unerringly have anticipated it.

The programme includes eight first recordings . Tenor James Gilchrist has a warm voice, and has the support of a fine pianist.

—John Steane