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Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Songs of Travel (1901-04) [24:20]
Six Studies in English Folk Song (1926) [8:53]
The Sky above the Roof (1908) [2:50]
Orpheus with his Lute (1902) [2:35]
Silent Noon (1903) [3:57]
The Winter’s Willow (1903) [3:12]
Romance for Viola and Piano [6:38]
Rhosymedre (1920, arr. for tenor, viola & piano by Richard Morrison, 2016) [3:47]
Four Hymns (1912-14) [14:29]
James Gilchrist (tenor)
Anna Tilbrook (piano)
Philip Dukes (viola)
rec. 2017, Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk.
Texts included
CHANDOS CHAN10969 [71:31]

I was compelled to listen to this CD after reading John Quinn’s enthusiastic review because to date I have never been completely satisfied with any recording of RVW’s lovely song cycle Songs of Travel. I do recommend John’s fine and detailed review which can be read via the link provided at the beginning of this paragraph.

Choice of singer is very much a personal issue, so dependent on timbre, sense of line and interpretation - overt and subtle – of the verses etc. etc. James Gilchrist certainly fulfils these criteria well enough but for me there is not sufficient emotional involvement. What do I mean by that? Well, at this point, I have to admit to being something less of a purist as far as these Songs of Travel are concerned, for I have a particular affection for RVW’s and his assistant, Roy Douglas’s arrangements for orchestra (RVW: 1,3 and 8; and Douglas, the remainder), but, in particular, I have always treasured the 1983 EMI recording with Thomas Allen and the City of Birmingham S.O. conducted by Simon Rattle.  Thomas Allen brings deep sincerity and emotional intensity to these songs. I can listen to this performance over and over again. I am unashamed to say that tears stand in my eyes whenever I listen to it, especially Allen’s rendering of ‘Whither must I wander’ and ‘Bright is the ring of words.’ As far as I know this is the only recording of this orchestral version. EMI also made it available as part of a 9 CD RVW collection.  

I heartily agree with the enthusiasm for the excellent support that Anna Tilbrook gives. I found that time and time again my ear was seduced away to her refined and sensitive accompaniments – and her involvement in the non-vocal pieces.

On balance, I find I agree with John Quinn in all respects about this new Chandos release which can be confidently recommended to RVW and English song enthusiasts.

Ian Lace

[As I write, I am sitting just yards away in Westbourne, Bournemouth where Robert Louis Stevenson, who wrote the Songs of Travel verses, once lived].

Previous review: John Quinn


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