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Dreams Melting: Songs by Howard Ferguson, Rebecca Clarke, Elizabeth Maconchy, Gerald Finzi, and Phyllis Tate

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Catalogue No: SOMMCD 0630
Release Date: 19/03/2021
Number of Discs: 1
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SOMM RECORDINGS is pleased to announce Dreams Melting, a revealing survey of British songs from the early 20th century by tenor James Geer and pianist Ronald Woodley.

At the recital’s heart are two substantial cycles. Setting seven poems by Thomas Hardy, Gerald Finzi’s Till Earth Outwears provides an intimate and movingly melancholic commentary in what Ronald Woodley describes in his extensive and informative booklet notes as a “male perspective on life, love and loss”.

Rarely recorded, Howard Ferguson’s five-part treatment of Denton Welch’s poems, Discovery, typifies “the subtlety of the relationship between late romanticism, modernism and the inherited idioms of ‘Britishness’ that composers of Ferguson’s generation inevitably grew up with”. Its second song, ‘Dreams Melting’, provides the recital’s title.

Three songs make their first appearance on disc. Elizabeth Maconchy’s setting of John Donne’s passionate but tortured A Hymn to God the Father boasts a searching vocal line underpinned by tellingly interrogative piano. Phyllis Tate’s The Falcon is a sparse but powerful setting of an anonymous medieval text while her variegated treatment of William Blake’s poem Cradle Song is reminiscent of a Bartók folksong arrangement.

Also heard are Maconchy’s Four Shakespeare Songs and settings of Ben Jonson’s Have You Seen but a Bright Lily Grow? and Robert Herrick’s A Meditation for his Mistress, alongside six varied and vital songs by Rebecca Clarke, including The Seal Man, “one of her most soaring flights of imagination”, and Tate’s Epitaph, in which her “quietly understated writing is masterly”.

A compendium of songs by William Walton and Constant Lambert, Façades (SOMMCD 0614), James Geer and Ronald Woodley’s debut SOMM release (with pianist Andrew West) was hailed by The Telegraph as “a wonderful collection of beautifully crafted miniatures”. MusicWeb International declared it “an absolute gem of a disc in every regard” and awarded it a Recording of the Year accolade.

On This Recording

    Howard Ferguson (1908-99) Discovery

  1. Dreams Melting
  2. The Freedom of the City
  3. Babylon
  4. Jane Allen
  5. Discovery
  6. Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979)

  7. The Seal Man
  8. The Cloths of Heaven
  9. The Cherry-Blossom Wand
  10. Infant Joy
  11. Cradle Song
  12. Tiger, Tiger
  13. Elizabeth Maconchy (1907-1994)

  14. A Hymn to God the Father*
  15. Have You Seen but a Bright Lily Grow?
  16. A Meditation for his Mistress
  17. Gerald Finzi (1901-56) Till Earth outwears

  18. Let Me Enjoy the Earth
  19. In Years Defaced
  20. The Market-Girl
  21. I Look Into My Glass
  22. It Never Looks like Summer
  23. At a Lunar Eclipse
  24. Life Laughs Onward
  25. Elizabeth Maconchy Four Shakespeare Songs

  26. Come Away, Death
  27. The Wind and the Rain
  28. Take, O Take Those Lips Away
  29. King Stephen
  30. Phyllis Tate (1911-87)

  31. The Falcon
  32. Cradle Song*
  33. Epitaph

*First Recordings

Reviews:

“This fascinating collection of British songs is quite an ear-opener. … ‘The Seal Man’ in particular is a powerful fantasy, part horror, part tragic love story, and Ronald Woodley creates terrific atmosphere in the sea-swept piano part. This one, above all, stays with you. James Geer’s voice is distinctive, with a cut-through brightness of sound and superb intonation; add to this his intelligent phrasing and sensitivity to nuance and, in the Clarke songs, you can almost imagine you are listening to a top-notch violist, as the composer was herself.” —Jessica Duchen, BBC Music Magazine ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“Vocal lines serve the verse… In the ongoing recorded collaborations of tenor James Geer and pianist/musicologist Ronald Woodley… this collection most clearly gives an alternative view of 20th-century British music. The literary factor here is extremely high and diverse. … Arguably, Clarke’s songs are the most distinctive on the disc, including her ‘Cradle Song’, whose harmonies eloquently anticipate the heartbreak to come in a newborn’s life. At times, her songs seem like miniature tone poems for voice and piano… even for those familiar with this repertoire, the sequence of the album is one aspect of the special insights offered here. …both [performers] are clear, engaging conduits of a heady, dense collection of music that requires and rewards repeated listening.” —David Patrick Stearns, Gramophone