Magazine article Gramophone

Swann: Songs

Magazine article Gramophone

Swann: Songs

Article excerpt



Dame Felicity Lott sop Kathryn Rudge mez John Mark Ainsley ten Roderick Williams bar Christopher Glynn pf

Hyperion (B) (2) CDA68172 (121' * DDD * T)

This is the other, virtually unknown side of Donald Swann, remembered so fondly for his partnership with Michael Flanders. Here is Swann in what he called his 'Lieder style'. Very classical and serious--and hard to pin down, such is the diversity of influences at work in what is, however, an unmistakably English voice, one in the tradition of Quilter, Butterworth and, most especially, Britten. What is surprising among his settings of poets as diverse as Burns, Blake and Byron, Rilke, Hesse and Heine is that there is little evidence of Swann the memorable melodist, the composer of 'Slow train', one of the most evocative English songs ever written. The strophic form of most Flanders & Swann songs inspired tunes. Here he is concerned with words, the text leading the texture.

This is a collection to dip into, not, I would suggest, to be heard at one fell swoop. The appeal of each song must be a matter of personal taste. I found myself drawn far more to the earlier ones--'Dark rose of my heart' (words by Francis Scarfe) is an impassioned spine-tingler that reduced me to tears, 'A red, red rose' (Burns) a touching alternative to the traditional setting--less so to the later ones with their solemn texts, much concerned with death and dying, and their austere and even dissonant accompaniments. …

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