Chandos CHAN 10691
English Songs – Sarah Connolly, Malcolm Martineau
Sarah Connolly received excellent reviews for her recital performance of English songs on 11 April 2011 at the Alice Tully Hall in New York. The New York Times wrote: ‘Ms Connolly’s voice was strong and steady through its range, velvety, but with a soft, subtle graininess that gave weight and presence to even her most ethereal floated notes.’
Here the mezzo-soprano, accompanied by Malcolm Martineau on piano, performs four arrangements by Benjamin Britten: three folk songs and one song from an early choral work. These complement the recent Britten CD on Chandos, on which Connolly performs the cantata Phaedra as well as A Charm of Lullabies (CHAN 10671).
Next come eleven songs from the 1920s, which is considered the golden decade for English art songs. Among the highlights are ‘By a Bierside’, Ivor Gurney’s stark reflection on death, written in the World War I trenches, and Herbert Howells’s ‘King David’ which has long been considered a masterpiece. Howells himself said: ‘I am prouder to have written King David than almost anything else of mine.’
The most recent contribution to this disc of English songs is the surreally retro A History of the Thé Dansant by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, which was published in 1995.