Celebrating 25 Years of Excellence

Charles Villiers Stanford: Songs of Faith, Love and Nonsense


Catalogue No: SOMMCD 0627
Release Date: 2021-01-22
Number of Discs: 1
EAN/UPC: 748871062726
Artists: , ,
Liner Notes

SOMM RECORDINGS announces a major new recording of songs by Charles Villiers Stanford including the first complete recording of Songs of Faith and 12 first recordings of other distinctively vital songs.

Songs of Love, Faith and Nonsense continues SOMM’s widely acclaimed commitment to Stanford’s music with baritone Roderick Williamstenor James Way (making his SOMM debut) and pianist Andrew West throwing revealing new light on his gift for word setting and the variety of his responses to matters of emotional ardour, spiritual fervency and the sublime nonsense poems of Edward Lear.

Setting poems by Tennyson and Walt Whitman, Songs of Faith demonstrates Stanford’s ability to give unique expression to the profound and the arcane with music of dramatic force and harmonic ingenuity. Three songs by Robert Bridges (librettist for Stanford’s oratorio Eden) and four songs from the opera Shamus O’Brien tap into Stanford’s Irish roots to colourful and evocative effect.

Composed to mark his 25th wedding anniversary and receiving its first recording, The Triumph of Love sets five sonnets by his close cousin, Edmond Gore Alexander Holmes, in richly executed settings.

The delightful Nonsense Rhymes taken from Edward Lear’s inimitably playful, poignant and pointed limericks show a different side to Stanford, a “highly articulate, dry humour like many literary Irishmen of his era”, as Jeremy Dibble says in his authoritative booklet notes.

SOMM’s previous Stanford recordings include the recently released String Quintets (SOMMCD 0623) and the complete, three-volume String Quartets (SOMMCD 0160, 0185, 0607) with the Dante Quartet praised by Gramophone for their “ardent, alert and thoroughly lived-in performances”, and Partsongs with the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir and Paul Spicer (SOMMCD 0128) which Limelight described as “excellent… beautifully sung”.

SOMM’s world premiere recording of The Travelling Companion (SOMMCD 274-2) was hailed “a landmark” by Gramophone.

On This Recording

    Songs of Faith, Op.97 (1907) a*
  1. Strong son of God, immortal Love
  2. God and the universe
  3. Faith
  4. To the Soul
  5. Tears
  6. Joy, Shipmate, Joy!
  7. Three Songs of Robert Bridges, Op.43 (1891) a**
  8. Since thou, O fondest and truest
  9. I praise the tender flower
  10. Say, O say! Saith the music
  11. Four Songs from Shamus O’Brien, Op.61 (1896) ***
  12. My heart is thrall b
  13. Glengall b
  14. Ochone, when I used to be young a
  15. I love my ould Ireland a
  16. Nonsense Rhymes (pub. Post.)
  17. The Hardy Norsewoman b
  18. The Compleat Virtuoso a
  19. The Absent Barber a
  20. The Cow and the Coward a
  21. Barkerolle a
  22. Dithyramb a
  23. The Generous Parishioner a
  24. Limmerich ohne Worte Andrew West piano
  25. The Boat Song b
  26. Nileinsamkeit a
  27. The Aquiline Snub b
  28. Tone Poem b
  29. Gongdichtung a
  30. A Vist of Elizabeth a
  31. The Triumph of Love, Op.82 (1903) b
  32. O one deep sacred outlet of my soul
  33. Like as the thrush in winter
  34. When in the solemn stillness of the night
  35. I think that we were childre
  36. O flames of passion
  37. Nonsense Rhymes (pub. Post.)
  38. Barkerolle (alternative version) a
*First complete recording **First recordings ***First digital recording a Roderick Williams, baritone b James Way, tenor


“Any recording that features baritone Roderick Williams deserves serious attention, and here he joins forces with tenor James Way and pianist Adam West for a sensitive and spirited survey of songs of ‘Faith, Love and Nonsense’. … the introspective [‘Strong son of God’] in particular benefiting from Williams’s unfailing responsiveness to the lyrics, while West’s dedicated accompaniment comes into its own… the Three Songs of Robert Bridges (1891), love is the theme, and there is a distinctive Irish folk flavour to the opening number, while ‘I praise the tender flower’ and ‘Say, o say! saith the music’ are performed with exquisite beauty by Williams and West, revealing Stanford as a song composer of enormous nuance in the high Romantic vein. … James Way has one cycle to himself, The Triumph of Love (1903), which sets five sonnets by Stanford’s cousin Edmond Holmes, wordily effusive affairs which nevertheless benefit from Stanford’s sure-footed settings, the odd-numbered items serving as robust pillars to the more gently mellifluous ‘Like as the thrush’ and ‘I think that we are children’, in which Way’s light-toned voice is at its finest. The whole cycle, however, he invests with a welcome passion, redeeming Holmes’s verbosity with the aid of Stanford’s gracious vocal lines and nicely-judged accompaniments. … A fine recording from the Wyastone Concert Hall, and expert notes from Stanford authority Jeremy Dibble, ensure that this all adds up to a disc to savour, and not just for fans of the composer. The performances are committed and communicative in equal measure, and with many first recordings this is a significant addition to the catalogue.” —Europadisc

“Almost all of the songs on this splendid disc were new to me. As such, the programme has expanded further my knowledge and appreciation of Stanford’s music. The performances are exemplary and there’s a great deal of fine music to enjoy. Engineer Paul Arden-Taylor has recorded the music excellently; he has achieved an excellent balance between voice and piano. The informative notes are written by the Stanford authority par excellence, Jeremy Dibble. All the sung texts are provided, though you are likely to find you won’t need to follow them slavishly since both singers have excellent diction. … I’d count this CD as a significant addition to the Stanford discography.” —John Quinn, MusicWeb International

“There are quite a few rarities here, including the 1891 Three Songs of Robert Bridges and the 1903 The Triumph of Love. The former include some of the simpler and more appealing settings, with Roderick Williams’s lucid tone, straightforward manner and ability to match words and notes helping him realise effortlessly sincere and sympathetic performances. … tenor James Way gives The Triumph of Love eloquence and sweep, while Williams does equally well by Songs of Faith (1906) … The two singers share the more attractive Four Songs from Shamus O’Brien (1896) – Stanford’s most successful opera – embodying its various male characters with dramatic vitality and conviction. … Fine playing throughout from pianist Andrew West, and impressive sound.” —George Hall, BBC Music Magazine

“Roderick Williams is an ideal guide [in Three Songs of Robert Bridges], his lyrical baritone caressing the occasionally wide-ranging but always carefully crafted vocal lines. … Williams is … joined [in Four Songs from Shamus O’Brien] by tenor James Way… with a voice full of dramatic bite. … he’s always committed and communicative. … Best of all are the delightful Nonsense Rhymes, settings over the years of limericks by Edward Lear with which the composer would regale his friends at private soirees. Stanford, it’s clear, was both a compositional dictionary and a ready wit. … Williams and Way have a ball and listeners should too… Andrew West is the thoughtful pianist throughout, especially imaginative in the Nonsense Rhymes, and adept at choosing just the right dynamic shape for each song. The recording is both vivid and natural, with the whole judiciously planned recital throwing new light on Stanford as song composer.” —Clive Paget, Limelight (4.5 Stars)

“Here’s yet another valuable instalment in Somm’s exploration of Charles Villiers Stanford. …the commanding partnership of Roderick Williams and Andrew West distilling a keen dramatic instinct and powerful range of expression that make you sit up and listen. … Stanford’s legendarily droll humour is on full display in the 24-minute sequence of Nonsense Rhymes… The delights come thick and fast in this 24-minute sequence of 14 limericks by Edward Lear… A hugely enjoyable anthology, then, and prospective purchasers can rest assured that production values and presentation leave nothing to be desired. A hat-tip, too, to whoever chose the particularly fetching, plein-air portrait by Irish artist William Orpen (1878-1931) that adorns the front cover.” —Andrew Achenbach, Gramophone