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Eric COATES (1886-1957)
Songs
Kathryn Rudge (mezzo-soprano)
Christopher Glynn (piano)
rec. 2018, Turner Sims, Southampton, England
SOMM RECORDINGS SOMMCD0192 [66.05]

Today, when most listeners think of Eric Coates, they consider his orchestral music first – pieces like the Knightsbridge March, By the Sleepy Lagoon, The Dam Busters March or, perhaps, The Three Elizabeths Suite, The Four Centuries Suite or even his Saxo-Rhapsody. Often forgotten is the fact that he wrote over 150 songs for which, in pre-radio and television days, there was considerable demand. His first published songs date from 1918, although his early song cycle The Mill O’ Dreams (included in this collection) dates back to 1915.  Just a few songs date from the period of the end of World War I to the closing years of the 1920s and scarcely any after 1930.

This new album breaks the trends of late and allows a feminine voice (not unusual in bygone years) to shine through these delightful songs.  Clearly those chosen here echo feminine interests, be they romantic or, more often than not, as here, maternal – the nursery sentiments of The Mill o’ Dreams song cycle, for example.  Other songs included will strike a familiar chord, especially the song, Sleepy Lagoon, developed from the long-running BBC Radio programme, Desert Island Discs. The extrovert character study of the old sea-dog Reuben Ranzo amuses, especially in how, in the after-life, he stitches sailors’ breeches in the blue sky. Four Old English Songs are settings of familiar Shakespeare texts and some older listeners will recognise such favourites as Bird Songs at Eventide, The Green Hills of Somerset and I Heard You Singing.

Mezzo-soprano, Kathryn Rudge’s warm, honeyed tone appeals strongly; her diction is always clear, her performance technically secure, yet I would like to have heard more colour in her voice, more imaginative response to the spirit of the songs’ texts.

Special praise is due to Christopher Glynn for his consistently perceptive and lightly shaded, yet telling, accompaniments which add so much to the appeal of this album.

As I mentioned, this new recording is most welcome because it is rare to have a collection recorded by a female singer.  Amongst ‘fairly recent’ recordings, there has been the appealing 1993 ASV disc, CDWHL 2081, entitled The Green Hills of Somerset – The Songs of Eric Coates recorded by Brian Rayner Cook accompanied by Ralph Terroni now, alas, officially currently unavailable, although diligent seeking-out might be worthwhile. The 1995 Marco Polo collection of Songs, featuring Richard Edgar-Wilson, includes The Mill O’ Dreams and Four Old English Songs.

Additionally, there is one of my favourite Eric Coates compilations  - Eric Coates – Sound and Vision (Dutton CDLX 7198, from 2007) -  with orchestrated accompaniments to ten songs; the BBC Concert Orchestra is conducted by John Wilson with Richard Edgar-Wilson, again, singing The Mill O’ Dreams cycle plus Song of Summer and Your Name; and Sir Thomas Allen, in really fine voice, singing with emotional intensity,  Green Hills of Somerset, I Heard You Singing, Fairy Tales of Ireland, and Bird Songs at Eventide      

This feminine charm of this new album is to be welcomed.
 
Ian Lace


Contents
Little Boy Blue (1924) [1.39]
Sleepy Lagoon (1930) [3.19]
I Pitch My Lonely Caravan at Night (1921) [2.02]
Bird Songs at Eventide (1926) [2.44]
The Scent of Lilac (1954) [2.39]
The Fairy Tales of Ireland (1918) [4.07]                                                                                      
The Mill o’ Dreams (1915) A cycle of four little songs:
Back o’ the Moon [2.56]
Dream o’ Nights [1.51]
The Man in the Moon [1.35]
Bluebells [1.46]
Dreams of London (1927) [2.34]
Song of the Little Folk (1925) [2.12]
Reuben Ranzo (1911) [2.46]
Sea Rapture (1924) [1.58]
The Green Hills of Somerset (1916) [2.58]
Always as I Close My Eyes (1929) [2.06]
Tell me where is fancy bred (1912) [2:51]
Four Old English Songs (1909):
Orpheus with his lute [2.01]
Who is Sylvia? [2.36]
Under the Greenwood Tree [1.06]
It was a lover and his lass [2.05]
Our Little Home (1917) [2.54]
I Heard You Singing (1923) [2.44]
By the North Sea (1919) [2.12]
At Daybreak (1909) [1.55]
Stars and a Crescent Moon (1932) [2.13]
Rise Up and Reach the Stars (1933) [1.43]
Homewood to You (1928) [2.21]

 



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