Celebrating 25 Years of Excellence

One Hundred Years of British Song, Volume 3


Catalogue No: SOMMCD 0646
Release Date: 2022-01-21
Number of Discs: 1
EAN/UPC: 748871064621
Artists: ,
Composers: , , , ,
Period: ,
Liner Notes

SOMM Recordings announces the third and final volume of the enthusiastically received One Hundred Years of British Song, with tenor James Gilchrist and pianist Nathan Williamson.

Focusing on songs written since 1950, Volume 3 celebrates what Williamson’s booklet note describes as “astonishment at the depth of expressivity of the poetry and music”.

Receiving first recordings are John Woolrich’s settings of Irish poet Matthew Sweeney, The Unlit Suburbs, a deadpan yet evocative exercise in “alternative realism”, and Geoffrey Poole’s stylistically wide-ranging The Eye of the Blackbird, with texts from Wallace Stevens.

Also on disc for the first time are Williamson’s own song-cycle setting poems by Bryan Heiser composed especially for James Gilchrist, The Little That Was Once a Man, and solo-piano miniature, Intermezzo. Peter Dickinson’s early, accomplished Four W.H. Auden Songs and dramatic and intense yet positive and joyful Let the Florid Music Praise, and Madeleine Dring’s characterful Five Betjeman Songs, the product of a “fascinating and multi-faceted artistic personality”, complete the disc.

Gramophone hailed Volume 1 (SOMMCD 0621) as “a most impressive release” and Limelight, awarding its Recording of the Month accolade, as “a penetrating, frequently revelatory start to a promising new series”. Of Volume 2 (SOMMCD 0636), MusicWeb International said: “It is redundant to declare that this is a superlative CD. Considering the two performers, the technical prowess of SOMM Recordings, the excellent liner notes and the imaginative and wide-ranging programme, it could be nothing else”.

Gilchrist’s SOMM releases include Parry’s English Lyrics (SOMMCD 257 and 270) and Penelope Thwaites’ From Five Continents (SOMMCD 0612), to which, theclassicalreview said, “Gilchrist brings authority throughout”.

Williamson’s SOMM association includes Great American Sonatas (SOMMCD 0163), “a release of distinction” (Gramophone), and Colour and Light (SOMMCD 0196), a 2019 Recording of the Year for International Piano.

On This Recording

    Peter Dickinson (b.1934)

  1. Let the florid music praise
  2. Four W.H. Auden Songs - I. Look, Stsranger
  3. Four W.H. Auden Songs - II. Eyes look into the well
  4. Four W.H. Auden Songs - III. Carry her over the water
  5. Four W.H. Auden Songs - IV. What's in your mind?
  6. Madeleine Dring (1923-77)

  7. Five Betjeman Songs - A Bay in Anglesey
  8. Five Betjeman Songs - Song of a Nightclub Proprietress
  9. Five Betjeman Songs - Business Girls
  10. Five Betjeman Songs - Undenominational
  11. Five Betjeman Songs - Upper Lambourne
  12. Nathan Williamson (b.1978) *

  13. The Little That Was Once A Man - In someone else's poem
  14. The Little That Was Once A Man - 4 a.m.
  15. The Little That Was Once A Man - Not being… (I) The ordinary way
  16. The Little That Was Once A Man - Not being… (II) Misunderstanding
  17. The Little That Was Once A Man - Moon at rest
  18. John Woolrich (b.1954) *

  19. The Unlit Suburbs - I. The Submerged Bar
  20. The Unlit Suburbs - II. Rat Town
  21. The Unlit Suburbs - III. The Ghost Choir
  22. Nathan Williamson (b.1978) *

  23. Intermezzo
  24. Geoffrey Poole (b.1949)

  25. The Eye of the Blackbird - I. Twenty snowy mountains
  26. The Eye of the Blackbird - II. The Autumn wind
  27. The Eye of the Blackbird - III. I Was of three minds
  28. The Eye of the Blackbird - IV. Which to prefer
  29. The Eye of the Blackbird - V. Icicles
  30. The Eye of the Blackbird - VI. I know noble accents
  31. The Eye of the Blackbird - VII. Out of Sight
  32. The Eye of the Blackbird - VIII. He rode over Connecticut
  33. The Eye of the Blackbird - IX. Evening all afternoon

*First Recordings


“It’s good to have some Madeleine Dring. Her understanding of what works in setting her Five Betjeman Songs is second to none. Not surprisingly the second one, Song of the Night Club Proprietress is very popular. … [Peter Dickinson’s] powerful ‘Let the florid music praise’ opens the disc and is then followed by the succinct Four W.H.Auden Songs written whilst he was a student, he packs a great detail into the cycle’s ten minutes… Accompanist Nathan Williamson is represented by a song cycle The Little That Was Once a Man, five poems by Bryan Heisor who has campaigned tirelessly for rights for the disabled. This is a dramatic cycle with much virtuoso writing for both voice and piano. The harmonic palette is wide and free, holding the listeners’ constant attention. Williamson also contributes a gentle solo piano ‘Intermezzo’, based on a Welsh hymn tune.… Gilchrist really grasps the drama and beauty of these settings, and Williamson is sensitive and brilliant by turns.” —Garry Higginson, British Music Society

Gilchrist and Williamson conclude their intriguing three-part exploration of British classical songs… The most engrossing sequence is Five Betjeman Songs by Madeleine Dring (1923-77), whose fluid lyricism Gilchrist and Williamson immerse themselves in with audible relish.” —David Cairns, The Sunday Times ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️