One does not have to delve very far into Peter Warlock before coming across the name of the singer Jon Goss (1891-1953), but this new CD conceived and sung by the enterprising Giles Davies explores the far wider range of repertoire that Goss promoted than just the songs by Peter Warlock.
In his Anthology of Song , published in 1926, Goss unashamedly states ‘ It is simply a collection of songs I am fond of. Most singers could compile a similar collection, and many singers should’. This CD is a similar collection of Giles Davies’s from the repertoire of John Goss, and incorporates his ‘Goss Male Quartet’ just as Goss used his Cathedral Male-voice quartet, created from fellow singers in the choir of Westminster Cathedral under R R Terry.
From the choice of Warlock, my only query is, why has ‘The lady’s birthday’ been omitted? Surely, it is one of the most hilarious of Warlock songs: ‘ A song sung by Mr Platt at Sadler’s Wells and arranged (at least 150 years later) for Mr Goss and the Cathedral Male-voice Quartet by peter Warlock at Eynsford on Derby Day 1925.’ Maybe they are considering it for a volume two!
Throughout, the singing is exemplary, the diction faultless, and a wide range of tone and colour coupled with the wide range of repertoire means that one’s mind is always kept captivated. The pianist, Steven Devine, also has a vivid sense of colour and there were moments when I wondered how many different instruments he was playing, the Elizabethan songs are almost lute-like, and the end of Schubert’s ‘The grave-diggers longing for home’ has the depth and resonance of a real double bass.
There are early and traditional English and French ballads, and sea songs (an especially moving ‘Shenandoah’ of which a 78rpm record Warlock sent to Delius, and in this recording incorporates a touching new coda by Danny Gillingwater, in which the ‘rolling river’ continues to ripple gently as the voyagers depart).
There are German Lieder, and English songs, including some of the songs Warlock dedicated to Goss, and others by Moeran, and Rebecca Clarke, together with Van Dieren’s ‘Der Asra’, a favourite of Goss’s that echoes Warlock’s interest in Bartók and cultivates three subtly contrasting voices of a narrator telling the story of a ravishingly beautiful Sultan’s daughter who asks a slave where he is from , only for the slave to ehar that his brethren, the Asra, are those who die for love.
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