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James Gilchrist - On Wenlock Edge - The Guardian


29 June 2007
The Guardian
Andrew Clements
4 Stars

On Wenlock Edge and Ludlow and Teme share more than just the poetry of AE Housman. It was hearing Vaughan Williams's song cycle in 1919 that inspired Ivor Gurney to compose his own settings of poems from A Shropshire Lad, using the same accompaniment of string quartet and piano, though making an entirely different selection of texts. A year later Gurney followed Ludlow and Teme with a second Shropshire Lad cycle, The Western Playland, and the two works are among his finest achievements.

Hearing On Wenlock Edge and Ludlow and Teme together, it's the echoes in the Vaughan Williams of Ravel (with whom he'd just finished his studies) that set it apart from Gurney's much less knowing approach, which is arguably closer to the sensibility of Housman's poems. The tenor, James Gilchrist, catches those different emphases superbly. He is equally vivid in evoking Peter Warlock's The Curlew, whose four settings of WB Yeats, with its accompaniment of flute, cor anglais and quartet, are woven into a miniature symphonic poem and inhabit a very different and rather un-English world.


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