Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Fairest Isle, All Isles Excelling: British Art Song of the Early Twentieth Century

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

Fairest Isle, All Isles Excelling: British Art Song of the Early Twentieth Century

Article excerpt

Earlier this year, "Bookshelf' reviewer Debra Greschner introduced our readers to Nicola Harrison's two excellent new volumes, The Wordsmith's Guide to English Song, the first dedicated to the songs of Roger Quilter (1877-1953), and the second to those of Ivor Gurney (1890-1937).1 These books explore the songs of both composers through their poetry, and now, happily, we have two very recent new publications of their songs, from Oxford University Press and from Boosey 8c Hawkes.

The beginning of the twentieth century was an extraordinarily fecund time in British music and literature. The artistic zenith of British culture had been the Elizabethan era of John Dowland and Thomas Campion, and later, Henry Purcell. It was followed by a relatively fallow period which only began to revive at the turn of the twentieth century. The enormous cultural shift that occurred as the country left behind the last gasp of thefin-desiecle and the mores of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and entered the period leading up to the Great War, was fertile ground artistically. Herbert Parry (1848-1918) and Charles Villier Stanford (1852-1924) were teachers to a generation of British song composers, including Herbert Howells (1892-1983), Gustav Holst (1874-1934), and Ralph Vaughan Williams (18721958). Roger Quilter was a member of what was known as the "Frankfurt Gang," all of whom studied together in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, in the 1890s. …

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