Vaughan Williams - On Wenlock Edge - Pizzicato
The first few bars of music from Vaughan Williams' delightful song cycle ‘On Wenlock Edge' grip the listener straightaway, and the intrigue lasts a full seventy minutes through ‘The Curlew' by Peter Warlock, ‘Elegiac Sonnet' by Arthur Bliss, and the cycle ‘Ludlow & Teme' by Ivor Gurney. It is puzzling that the composers are not mentioned on the cover, and the publisher deserves to be critizised for this omission, but given the quality of the SACD this criticism must not extend to the production itself, because that would be unfair towards the performers.
Indeed, this is a very extraordinary SACD. First of all, there is the programme, which does not universally have the rare quality of ‘On Wenlock Edge', but is still very demanding and interesting throughout. And then there is the singing and the interpretation by James Gilchrist, who explores the worlds of the four composers and poets with the highest dedication, the greatest inspiration, and the utmost emotional participation, and who places us under the spell of the music with his singing. The musicians accompany him so exceptionally well that one may deservedly speak of an optimal collaboration.
Returning once more to James Gilchrist: This singer has something above and beyond others: He has an assured instinct for tone, and he can vary the dynamics of his voice extensively. He is a most excellent singer, who uses his means of expression, including his assured recital singing, to impressive effect, always serving the music, always very personal, always very profound, and immediately involving.
For me, this is one of the most beautifully recorded collections of songs of the past few months!