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Folk Tales - British Cello and Piano Miniatures
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Six Studies in English Folk Song (1926) [8:52]
Fantasia on Greensleeves (arr. Greaves and Forbes) (1934) [3:57]
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
Spring Song (No. 2 from Four Short Pieces for violin and piano) (1912) [2:29]
Cradle Song (1910) [2:47]
E.J. MOERAN (1890-1950)
Irish Lament (1944) [3:18]; Prelude (1943) [4:43]
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Romance op. 62 (1910) [6:22]
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Elegy (1930) [4:00]
Romance (1918) [6:13]
Arnold BAX (1883-1953)
Folk Tale (1918) [8:11]
Gerald Peregrine (cello)
Antony Ingham (piano)
rec. 2018, Potton Hall, Suffolk.
NAXOS 8.574035 [54:26]

Naxos are not newcomers to these composers or to their involvement with British music and the cello. There have been two discs under the tutelage of Raphael Wallfisch and the late Raphael Terroni for a start (review ~ review). While those two have included fairly substantial fare, the content of this disc is made up of a small crowd of shorter pieces. They are very nicely done so perhaps we can look forward to more of the same from Messrs Peregrine and Ingham.

These short and usually unpretentious pieces focus on the period from the teens of the last century to the mid-1940s. The Vaughan Williams Studies have been much arranged and transcribed - most recently for saxophone and piano. These are, I think, the originals and in their simplicity and lack of adornment are very affecting. The melodies are good and like the Finzi Bagatelles they are highly skilled and very touching. This performance is sensitive, relishing the Housman-style sighs while rejecting any hint of the cloying. The same composer’s Greensleeves is put across with a masterful and lightly lilting touch from Peregrine. It’s all very sensitively played. The Bridge miniatures are not from this composer’s strongest vintage. The Spring Song is sleepy and thin gruel. All rather salon, I am afraid: pot plants and chandeliers. The dreamy Cradle Song has more about it - simple though its schema may be.

I do not recall hearing Moeran’s Irish Lament before. It dates from five years before the composer’s death in Kenmare. As its title foreshadows, it is a sweetly rounded elegiac thing. Good to hear, it wrests at least one moment of soulful passion rather akin to the Cello Concerto. Moeran’s Prelude is also from the 1940s but has put in earlier appearances - not many. It is a fine and touching piece. This was the first work Moeran wrote for his wife-to-be, Peers Coetmore. It includes a fragile crystalline rainbow of notes and there’s at least one phrase that echoes Vaughan Williams' contemporary Prelude to The 49th Parallel.

The Elgar Romance is by no means Elgar at his best. It has been recorded before several times for bassoon and orchestra, including by Martin Gatt on CBS LP with Barenboim and by Laurence Perkins on collections lightly dubbed “The Playful Pachyderm” and on LP as “L’Après-Midi d’un Dinosaur”. Strange how often this has been recorded when compared with another and rather better piece (Soliloquy) for oboe and orchestra arranged by Gordon Jacob and played by Leon Goossens. Two of the three Delius pieces come across really well: the bejewelled Caprice and the affecting Romance from the last year of the Great War. The Bax Folk Tale sings out across a canvas bigger than many here. There are great emotions at play but it also has a common touch, as in the little dance at 2:55. It’s the single longest piece here at 8:11 and combines bigness with oratory and busy textures. Fortunately, there is none of the rose-water and talc style that we hear in Maytime in Sussex.

This is a pretty good collection and bodes well for Peregrine and Ingham. It’s just a pity, in a collection of brevities, that the playing time is short. There was, for example, room for some Bantock; perhaps Hamabdil and Elegiac Poem. By the way, I see that pianist Antony Ingham won the UCLA Piano Concerto Competition with the Arthur Bliss piano concerto whilst studying with the late Johana Harris in Los Angeles.

Stephen Barlow’s work-specific notes enhance what is a diverting and well recorded listening experience.

Rob Barnett

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