Alfred Deller will be chiefly remembered as the singer who brought the countertenor voice to prominence in the mid 20th century. As a result of his prolific performing and recording career, many of today’s leading countertenors would acknowledge his influence upon their own singing careers.
This eclectic CD opens with the Pastorale for countertenor (Robin Blaze) and recorder (John Turner) by Walter Bergmann; it was first performed by Deller in 1946, the year of its composition. The disc ends with a later work, also by Bergmann; Three Songs for countertenor and guitar (James Bowman and Dave Bainbridge). The dedication reads “for Alfred and Desmond” (Dupre, the guitarist and lutenist who regularly accompanied Deller from 1950 until the early 1970’s). All of these songs display Bergmann’s elegant and effective writing for voice, together with his ability to create sympathetic accompaniments of great depth.
The CD’s centrepiece is the Ode on the Death of Mr. Henry Purcell by John Blow; surely Alfred Deller would have been instrumental in early revival performances of this great work. With such a stellar line up of distinguished vocalists and instrumentalists a performance of deep understanding and matchless sensitivity is assured.
Four Inventions for two recorders by Michael Tippett (1954) was written for the SRP and first performed by Freda Dinn and Walter Bergmann. This is a beautifully balanced account; elegant and restrained. Sonata in A Minor for two recorders and continue by William Williams is a less well-known companion piece to his Sonata in F major (“In Imitation of Birds”). This lively and committed recording will, I’m sure, encourage more players to search out and study this engaging work. Sonata in F Major for two recorders and continue by Handel will be familiar to the majority of readers, its final movement, Allegro, being based on the same fragment of jig as the finale from the more famous Sonata in F, Op. 1 No. 11.
John Turner has again assembled an amazing cast of superb musicians and recorded a wide range of quality music, much of which demands to be better known, at the highest level. This is surely a CD which will remain essential listening for many years to come.