SOMM Recordings is pleased to announce Birdsong, a fascinating cross-gender exploration of art songs associated with the female voice by baritone Roderick Williams, accompanied by pianist Andrew West.
The recital features signature songs from the height of Romanticism by Brahms and Clara and Robert Schumann alongside a more recent quartet of sensuous songs by Sally Beamish.
In his revealing foreword, Williams recalls having his choice of Brahms’s Sapphische Ode refused by competition organisers because it was “a woman’s song”. Returning recently to the work prompted him to question why some songs are considered gender-specific. Birdsong is his response.
In his informative booklet notes, Richard Stokes notes that Brahms’s songs “betrays his own essentially melancholic nature” and his difficulty in “sustaining emotional relationships with the women in his life”. His nine songs here include the bittersweet An die Nachtigall, the moving innocent ardency of Das Mädchen spricht and the quiet, earnest longing of Sapphische Ode.
Clara Schumann’s Liebst du um Schönheit provides an authentic female perspective on courtship, as does Sally Beamish’s Four Songs from Hafez (for which she provides her own notes), taking inspiration from the Iranian-born, Glasgow-based Jila Peacock’s evocative translations and artistic rendering of the 14th-century Persian Sufi poet’s texts.
An intimate exploration of a young woman’s feelings towards an older man of higher birth, Robert Schumann’s Frauenliebe und-leben acquires new facets when heard in Williams’ characterful baritone.
Previous SOMM releases by the powerhouse Williams-West partnership include the acclaimed three-volume set of Parry’s English Lyrics (SOMMCD 257, 270, 272) and Songs of Faith, Love and Nonsense by Stanford (SOMMCD 0627), which Gramophone hailed as “a hugely enjoyable anthology” and praised “the commanding partnership of Roderick Williams and Andrew West”.
On This Recording
- An die Nachtigall, Op.46 No.4
- Mädchenlied, Op.107 No.5
- Das Mädchen, Op.95 No.1 Clara Schumann
- Liebst du um Schönheit, Op.12 No.2 Johannes Brahms
- Das Mädchen spricht, Op.107 No.3
- Salamander, Op.107 No.2
- Nachtigall, Op.97 No.1 Sally Beamish Four Songs from Hafez
- Hoopoe Johannes Brahms
- Vergebliches Ständchen, Op.84 No.4
- Sapphische Ode, Op.94 No.4
- Von ewiger Lieber, Op.43 No.1 Robert Schumann: Frauenliebe und -leben, Op.42
- Seit ich ihn Gesehen
- Er, der Herrlichste von allen
- Ich kann's nicht fassen, nicht glauben
- Du Ring an meinem Finger
- Helft mir, ihr Schwestern
- Süsser Freund
- An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust
- Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan
“This disc has challenged me – in a good way. … This is a thoughtful project, which has been carefully considered and superbly executed. If it’s thought to be provocative then I’d say that it’s provocative in an entirely positive way. The disc is very rewarding… I should make it clear that throughout the programme Andrew West’s pianism is of the highest possible order. As ever, SOMM’s production values are high. The recorded sound, engineered by Oscar Torres, is excellent and balances singer and piano very well. The booklet contains valuable essays by Roderick Williams and Richard Stokes while Sally Beamish contributes a useful note about her own songs. Texts and translations are provided and – praise be! – they’re printed in a good-sized, clear font. This is a disc that should provide stimulating listening for all lovers of art song.” —John Quinn, MusicWeb International “I'm delighted with the recording, especially with Andrew West’s crisp pianism. … Williams seems to be on a new level” —David Patrick Stearns, Gramophone