Songs Of Love And War
CANTABILE - The London Quartet - release their new album on Champs Hill Records - Here with Special Digital Bonus Track - Flash Bang Wallop!
Well known as wonderful entertainers, the four singers of Cantabile here share some more serious and hauntingly beautiful songs.
Released in 2014, the 100th anniversary of the start of "The Great War", this is a programme sung from the heart, inspired by the dual themes of love and of war.
The disc seeks to capture the heartfelt emotion of the time: young men sent off to the front, and those they left behind.
Featuring works from 17 composers, both a cappella songs and a number accompanied by the renowned pianist Malcolm Martineau.
Amongst the 18 songs on this disc are Elgar's As Torrents In Summer, Poulenc's Bleuet, Vaughan Williams' Silent Noon, Bridge's The Last Invocation, and many other achingly beautiful songs, with music by Haydn, Barley, Pearsall, Chopin and Quilter and others.
- Sleeve Notes
For more than three decades the London Quartet have set about demolishing artificial barriers between musical genres with performances and arrangements of the highest class. Their work rests on an understanding of the hunger of audiences for genuine entertainment, for being moved to tears of laughter and sadness while sharing in a common experience of listening to words and music that go straight to the heart. Many of the pieces in this programme date from a time when musical variety ruled. It took years for arty types to replace diversity with divisions designed to keep 'serious' music apart from almost anything tarred with the popular brush. Their attempts at exclusion were routinely ignored by countless choral societies, brass bands and vocal ensembles determined to explore everything from contemporary scores to smart arrangements of old favourites. The London Quartet's work, reflected throughout this album, remains gloriously inclusive and open to the enduring appeal of great tunes and lyrics.
Percy Scholes, in his endlessly fascinating Oxford Companion to Music, notes that it would be impossible to provide a complete list of part-song composers, 'for during the nineteenth century it was as inevitable that every English organist should write a few part-songs as that he should write a few anthems'. The market for part-songs was fuelled during the 1800s by efficient new methods of printing and a massive appetite among the middle classes for material to sing at social gatherings and choral concerts. Robert Lucas Pearsall, born in 1795, created many fine part-songs for the Bristol Madrigal Society. Best known today for his arrangement of the carol In dulci jubilo, Pearsall took composition lessons after moving to Mainz in the 1820s and devoted much effort to the revival of the English madrigal style of the late sixteenth century. He also bought a ruined castle overlooking Lake Constance and wrote sacred vocal works for the nearby monastery of St Gall. Pearsall's translations of German romantic poetry provided a rich source of material for his madrigals and part-songs. His elegant setting of Ludwig Heinrich Christoph H'lty's 'Es ist ein halbes Himmelreich' was published by Novello in Pearsall's English translation as 'There is a Paradise on Earth'.
Part-songs were central to Joseph Barnby's work as composer and choir trainer. He made his name as organist and choir master at the London church of St Andrew's, Wells Street, and at the end of 1872 was appointed to succeed Charles Gounod as conductor of the Royal Albert Hall Choral Society. His setting for four voices of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's 'Sweet and Low' appeared in print in 1863, around the time of his appointment at St Andrew's. Tennyson's popularity and Barnby's lilting music ensured that 'Sweet and Low' became a staple of the part-song repertoire.
Elgar's growing reputation was boosted in the mid-1890s when Charles Swinnerton Heap, the Leipzig-trained conductor and founder of the North Staffordshire Music Festival, commissioned the composer to create a large-scale choral cantata. King Olaf is based on a libretto arranged from the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Tales of a Wayside Inn. Longfellow's 'Saga of King Olaf' evokes the dramatic adventures of Olaf Trygvasson, who ruled Norway from 995'1000 CE. The final scene of Elgar's work begins with an unaccompanied chorus, 'As Torrents in Summer'. It was shrewdly issued by Novello as a separate part-song and remained in the choral society repertoire long after King Olaf fell silent.
Songs for solo voice and keyboard came to occupy an important place in public and domestic music-making during Haydn's later years. Printed music, an expensive commodity in earlier times, now fell within reach of a large number of consumers thanks to the invention of new printing technologies; likewise, the development of the piano's popularity and proliferation of affordable instruments did much to emancipate music from church, royal and aristocratic control. During his first visit to England in the early 1790s, Haydn was befriended by Anne Hunter, wife of the surgeon Sir John Hunter and an accomplished poet. She supplied the composer with new lyrics in English and offered advice on their idiomatic setting. Hunter also selected existing verses for his consideration, 'She Never Told her Love' from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night notable among them. Haydn, acclaimed by his English admirers as the 'Shakespeare of Music', satisfied the public's fondness for the sentimental with his deft setting of this verse.
Within the span of a few bars, Ralph Vaughan Williams caught the contemplative mood of 'Silent Noon'. The song, written in 1903 for solo voice and piano, follows the natural stresses of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's verse and highlights the poet's imagery with exquisite harmonic shifts. Frank Bridge, perhaps still best known as Britten's teacher, completed his setting of Walt Whitman's The Last Invocation within a fortnight of the First World War's end. The song addresses death from the perspective of one soul facing extinction alone. Its vocal line, underpinned by bell- like repeated chords in the piano accompaniment, conjures up an atmosphere of courageous acceptance as love's 'strong ... hold' is relinquished. Roger Quilter's setting of Edmund Waller's 'Go, Lovely Rose' dates from 1922 and makes a rare virtue of sentimentality. The song, subsequently gathered together with four companions and published as Five English Love Lyrics, works well as an arrangement for vocal quartet and piano.
The strikingly gifted French singer-songwriter George Brassens turned satire against the senseless slaughter of the Western Front. His The War of '14''18 (La guerre de '14''18) draws on his experience of forced labour in Germany during the Second World War and anarchist outlook to project a caustic anti-war message, complete with mock celebration of the gruesome superiority of the War of '14''18 over all other conflicts.
When Francis Poulenc opened his copy of Le Figaro on 29 September 1938, his eye was drawn to the opening lines of an ancient Ballade written by Charles d'Orléans during his long captivity as a prisoner-of-war in England. The poem chimed with the uncertain mood of the times. While the so-called Munich Agreement, signed on 30 September, introduced a brief period of optimism, few believed that Hitler would remain content with annexing the Sudetenland from Czechoslovakia. Poulenc's personal spirituality, open to the heartfelt compassion of the 'Priez pour paix', reaches out through the austere simplicity of his setting. The composer here recalls the spirit of French music past without abandoning his own distinct musical voice. 'Bleuet' was written soon after Hitler's forces invaded Poland in September 1939. Poulenc chose to set words by Guillaume Apollinaire, originally printed in the form of a calligram in which a diagonal line of text appears to divide the verse into two opposing forces. The poem's title refers to the blue-grey uniform worn by French enlisted soldiers and to the innocent young soldier sent towards certain death at five o'clock in the afternoon.
There's no shortage of French polish in the pavane by Thoinot Arbeau. The cleric used his real name, Jehan Tabourot, to fashion the anagram under which his famous dance treatise, the Orchésographie, was published. Arbeau's dance appeared in print as 'Belle qui tiens ma vie', complete with music for vocal ensemble and a prominent 'pah pa-pa pah' part for drum to help keep singers and dancers in time. Peter Warlock arranged Arbeau's 'Pavane' for piano duet as part of Capriol, his suite of 1926, and later orchestrated the piece for strings and full orchestra.
Love's folly comes to life in 'Insensatez', first released on the 1963 album The Composer of Desifinado, Plays. Ant'nio Carlos Jobim adapted Chopin's famous Prelude No. 4 in E minor to carry words by Vinicius de Moraes, popularly known in his native Brazil as 'O Poetina' or the 'little poet'. The American lyricist Norman Gimbel, who worked closely with Brazil's leading bossa nova composers, helped place the song on the international hit parade with his English words, 'How Insensitive'. The song appeared on Doris Day's 1965 album Latin for Lovers and has since been covered by everyone from Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra to Olivia Newton-John and Iggy Pop.
Guy Turner has written and arranged many works for Cantabile. His version of the traditional English folksong 'O Waly, Waly' reflects a profound sensibility for harmonic colour and ensemble blend, qualities rooted in his long experience as a choir trainer and choral composer. Vince Clarke's 'Only You' hit the number two spot in the UK pop chart following its release in March 1982 and went on perform well in the Billboard chart in the United States. He recorded the song with Alison Moyet after they formed the duo Yazoo.
David Lee, the London-born pianist, band leader and songwriter, formed an award- winning partnership with the lyricist Herbert Kretzmer in the early 1960s. They found fame with songs such as 'Goodness Gracious Me', written for Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren, and 'Kinky Boots'. 'In the Summer of his Years' was written in response to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on 22 November 1963 and performed live by Millicent Martin on BBC television the following evening during a special edition of That Was the Week that Was.
Tom Bahler was perhaps best known as a session singer with the American sitcom The Partridge Family before Michael Jackson made a hit of 'She's Out of My Life' in 1979. Cantabile's arrangement ramps up the passion with its gleaming high-tenor solo and sensual close harmonies. There was a not a dry eye in the cinema when the cowgirl Jessie sang Randy Newman's 'When She Loved Me', the scene-stealing number from Toy Story 2. The song, written in 2000, recalls how Jessie's young owner loses interest in her as she grows older.
- Press Reviews
Nominated for a CARA in Best Classical Album Category
"The ensemble give performances which blend admirably, have fine attention to detail and show a good feel for the words."
"...you can't help but enjoy it."
- Planet Hugill
"...this quartet's singing is stylish and technically proficient."
"This program is well designed and executed"
- American Record Guide
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