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Vaughan Williams - James Gilchrist - Sunday Herald

There is a certain satisfaction to the chronological sequence contained within this programme of English Song. In 1908, when he was 35, Ralph Vaughan Williams (RVW) returned from Paris where he had spent three months studying with Ravel. A year later, he completed his song cycle, On Wenlock Edge - settings of A Shropshire Lad by A E Housman - introducing the string quartet with piano, rather than the more usual solo piano, as accompaniment to the voice. Ten years later, on hearing that work for the first time, Ivor Gurney was so enthused that he immediately produced his own cycle of Shropshire Lad settings, using a different selection of texts, but with the same ensemble.

Peter Warlock follow next with his 1923 composition, The Curlew, this time matching the words of W B Yeats with flute, cor anglais and string quartet. Thirty years later, Arthur Bliss completed the circle by returning to the original piano quintet accompaniment for his Elegiac Sonnet, a work written in memory of a pianist friend who had taken his own life. In general, tenor James Gilchrist brings a thoughtful elegance to all of theses performances. His light, very focussed voice, produces some wonderful moments - the grief and distress of Is My Team Ploughing, the heartache of Bredon Hill - but there are times when just a little more warmth and variety of tone would make all the difference. The Ensemble playing is subtle and stylish throughout and the Linn sound atmospherically absorbing.

Download: Oh when I was in love with you. Track 4.

Sunday Herald
16 September 2007