Vaughan Williams: Folk Songs, Vol. 4 – Choir & Singing – Reviews

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Vaughan Williams
Folk Songs, vol. 4: Newfoundland folksongs, etc.
Mary Bevan (soprano), Nicky Spence (tenor), Roderick Williams (baritone), William Vann (piano)
Albion ALBCD045 60:39 min

This volume completes Albion Records’ study of the respectful and often touching arrangements of Vaughan Williams, all interpreted with character and art by these singers and above all the superbly sensitive pianism of their accompanist William Vann.

Some melodies are more familiar than others. “She’s Like the Swallow” also appears in Britten’s latest set of folk songs. The Vaughan Williams arrangement, typical of his style, is more obviously beautiful, but rather lacks the intriguing qualities of Britten which – unlike the Vaughan Williams – was written to be played as part of a full ensemble, and thus gives more character to the accompaniment of the melody.

While this is an album best sampled in small doses rather than listened to all at once, it has nothing to do with the singers involved: I particularly admire the way tenor Nicky Spence holds the attention during the eight minutes of “Lord Akeman”. My only other downside is the similarity of baritone Roderick Williams’ voice to Spence’s – their duet ‘Servant man and labourman’ could do with a bit more vocal contrast, however, given the lively personalities of these singers, that would be less of a problem if seen in concert rather than heard on record. In short, a pleasant listening that fans of Vaughan Williams should not hesitate to snap up.

Daniel Jaffe

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