MusicWeb

What felicity it is to hear a tune again which has made me happy.”

(Jane Austen ‘Emma’)

It is, of course, fashionable at present to quote Jane Austen – but it is appropriate here; music was ‘an innocent diversion’ in her life and writings. Among her music books at Chawton names like Stephen Storace, Charles Dibdin, Arne, Shield, Linley and other songsters appear. It is not inconceivable that, had Jane inhabited a 20 th century drawing room, the name of John Jeffreys would feature amongst the music. His is a gentle voice – reflective – flowing as serenely as the Severn on the covering booklet – although the occasional song in this collection might disturb the waters as does the bore.

This is the fifth disc of Jeffreys’ songs – most of which were resurrected from oblivion in the 1960s before which he destroyed almost all his work. And on this collection there are eight given a first performance. Jeffreys’ music like that of Warlock bridges the Elizabethan and the early 20 th Century – setting such 17 th century lyrics as ‘Passing By’ and ‘Jillian of Berry’ as well as Shakespeare, Gurney, Wilfrid Wilson Gibson and other ‘Georgians’ yet retaining a uniquely individual voice. So acute is his sensitivity to the poems, that he has set several twice, thrice and even four times.

This is music for a quiet evening – in contemplation of some of the less complex emotions aroused by things fine and beautiful – all beautifully sung by James Gilchrist with Anna Tilbrook accompanying.

—Colin Scott-Sutherland