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SUMMERTIME
Felicity Lott and Graham Johnson

 

 

 
1. Gershwin, George [2:20]
Summertime (Porgy and Bess)

2. Barber, Samuel [2:20]
Sure on this Shining Night

3. Elgar, Edward [2:49]
The Shepherds Song

4. Faure, Gabriel [3:06]
Clair de Lune

5. Quilter, Roger [2:04]
Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal

6. Quilter, Roger [2:48]
Who is Sylvia?

7. Arne, Thomas [1:40]
Where the Bee Sucks

8. Berlioz, Hector [3:35]
L'Ile Inconnue

9. Schubert, Franz [3:43]
Auf dem Wasser zu Singen

10. Faure, Gabriel [2:20]
Soir

11. Schumann, Robert [1:35]
Der Nussbaum

12. Brahms, Johannes [1:35]
Meine Liebe ist Grn

13. Lehmann, Liza [4:27]
Ah Moon of my Delight!

14. Faure, Gabriel [2:08]
Notre Amour

15. Berlioz, Hector [2:18]
Villanelle

16. Barber, Samuel [2:34]
The Monk and his Cat

17. Bridge, Frank [1:35]
Go Not Happy Day

18. Delius, Frederick [2:14]
To Daffodils

19. Vaughan-Williams, Ralph [2:23]
Orpheus with his Lute

20. Ireland, John [1:27]
The Trellis

21. Quilter, Roger [1:27]
Love's Philosophy

22. Wood, Haydn [2:29]
A Brown Bird Singing

23. Trad. Irish [1:32]
A Lark in the Clear Air

24. Warlock, Peter [2:25]
Sleep

25. Porter, Cole [3:09]
The Tales of an Oyster

26. Bernstein, Leonard [1:45]
My House

27. Head, Michael [2:32]
The Little Road to Bethlehem

28. Fraser-Simson, Harold [2:19]
Vespers

29. Rutter, John [2:15]
The Lord Bless You and Keep You

Artist(s):
Dame Felicity Lott, soprano
Graham Johnson, piano

Dame Felicity Lott, revered British soprano, says of this CD:

"Summertime has many of my favourite songs in English, French and German. We made the CD at a friend's house, and the sessions were so relaxed, with no London traffic to cause endless retakes! It's a real mix of beautiful songs of all kinds, on a summer theme. I chose songs I loved, from Gershwin to Christopher Robin..."

Three centuries of song are represented here, and, as BBC Music Magazine's Hilary Finch put it "such is the skill of Johnson's programming that the entire recital seems to be a single, sustained exhalation of rapture and reflection"

She went on to say:

"The upper reaches of Lott's still gleaming soprano inhabit Barber's "Shining Night" and Fauré's "Clair de lune". And her robust English version of Schubert's "Who is Sylvia?" finds an irresistible companion in Arne's "Where the Bee Sucks", with its veritable midsummer night's dream of an accompaniment from Johnson. The artists' palpable sense of joy and well-being gathers momentum as they visit Berlioz's "L'�le inconnue" and as they sing on the water with Schubert. And Lott and Johnson know well that the only way to face sentiment is to acknowledge its own integrity, as they do when they listen to Haydn Wood's "Little Brown Bird" and eavesdrop with Fraser-Simson on Christopher Robin saying his prayers.

This CD features songs from a great variety of composers - Gershwin, Barber, Cole Porter, Bernstein, Brahms, Schubert, Arne, Schumann, Berlioz, and many more.

A full 29 tracks of summer-themed songs!



 

 


�Summertime' � the first song heard in Gershwin's Porgy and Bess at its opening in 1936 � is perhaps the piece of music which, beyond all others, lays a bridge between the worlds of popular and classical music, its evocation of the lazy Carolina heat proving irresistible to audiences (and arrangers) of every stripe. But composers have been hymning summer for as long as written records can testify: one of the earliest known of all pieces of secular music is the 13th-century round Sumer is icumen in.

The earliest song of summer in this recital is Where the Bee Sucks, written by Thomas Arne for Shakespeare's The Tempest in 1746. Schubert's An Silvia (1826) is another Shakespeare setting (originally of a German translation; here Shakespeare's text is restored). The other Schubert song, Auf dem Wasser zu singen (1823), sets a poem by Friedrich Leopold, Count of Stolberg-Stolberg, which tells of a boat gliding along the rippling water as the soul glides �on joy's soft shimmering waves'.

German Romanticism identified strongly with nature, and images of natural growth in spring and summer were readily seen as metaphors for human emotions. In Robert Schumann's �Der Nussbaum', the third song in his cycle Myrthen, Op.25 (1840), the winds whisper tales of love around a greening nut-tree; the words are by Julius Mosen. And in Brahms's �Meine Liebe ist Gr�n (No.5 of the Songs and Romances, Op.63, written in 1873-74), the poet � Felix Schumann, son of Robert and Clara, and Brahms's godson � declares that his love is as green as the lilac bush. Brahms would have expected Clara Schumann to examine this song with especial interest: is it a coded message?

A recurrent theme in the French poets whose words are sung here is light � its absence and its return. Théophile Gauthier's texts in Hector Berlioz's 1840-41 song-cycle Les Nuits d'Été make much play of images of night, but �Villanelle', the opening song, and �l'�le inconnue', the final one, offer buoyant contrasts. In the first the poet salutes the passing of winter with a call to return to nature; in the second he asks his lady where she would like to travel, and tempts her with all manner of exotic locations. Gabriel Fauré's Clair de lune, Op.46 No.2 (a Verlaine setting from 1887) sees the lover's soul as an evening landscape �charmed by masquers and revellers', their songs mingling with the calm moonlight; in Soir, Op.83 No.2 (from 1894, to a text by Albert Samain, now forgotten, but set by Koechlin, Respighi, Casella and Schmitt) the lovers see lines, colours, sounds dissolve as the gardens of the night begin to flower. Notre amour (c.1897, words by Armand Sylvestre) compares the lovers' feelings to the perfumes carried on the breeze, the songs of the morning, the forest's mysteries.

It's surprising that at least some of Samuel Barber's 50-odd songs have not entered the repertoire as mainstream classics: their vocal lines are often radiantly lovely (Barber himself was a fine baritone). �Sure on this Shining Night', No.3 of the Four Songs, Op.13 (1937-40), sets James Agee's poem �Description of Elysium': In the �Star-made shadows' of the evening, �High summer holds the earth. Hearts all whole'. �The Monk and his Cat' (from the ten Hermit Songs, Op.29 of 1952-53), uses an adaptation by W.H. Auden of a text by an anonymous Irish author of the eighth or ninth century: the monk contemplates the division of labour that distinguishes him from Pangur, his cat, the one entrapping mice, the other fathoming a problem. The free translations by Edward Fitzgerald (1809-83) of the Rub�ly�t of the twelfth-century Persian poet Omar Khayy�m (the rob�i is a quatrain popular in Persian poetry) were first published in 1859 and soon became popular, going through a number of further editions in the remaining decades of the 19th century. Liza Lehmann's song cycle In a Persian Garden (1896), for four voices and piano, sets four of Edward Fitzgerald's famous translations; �Ah Moon of my Delight' is the first of them.

British composers following less exotic paths are well represented in this recital. When one considers Elgar's substantial output for chorus � in his mighty oratorios and in a generous quantity of partsongs � it's surprising that he wrote so few solo songs and that the success of his orchestral song-cycle Sea Pictures didn't tempt him into further song-writing, with or without orchestra. One might reasonably imagine, then, that the solo songs he did compose would be better known; The Shepherd's Song, Op.16 No.1 (1892), to a text by Barry Pain (1864-1928), is one of the few to achieve popularity. It shares its folk song-like character 0 and its summer imagery � with Frank Bridge's Go not, happy day, a 1916 setting of a poem from Tennyson's Maud (also set by Liszt and Arthur Somervell). Delius's �To Daffodils' (from Four Old English Songs of 1915-16) sets a Herrick text, its imagery of fading beauty perfectly suiting Delius's languid musical language.

Quilter's Now sleeps the Crimson Petal (Op.3 No.2), another Tennyson setting, has been a recital favourite since its first publication in 1904, the year of its composition; Love's Philosophy, to a text by Shelley, shares an opus number with it (it is Op.3 No.1), although it was written a year later and published separately. There's more confusion possible from the name of the poet of A Brown Bird Singing, Haydn Wood's setting of which was published in 1922: Richard Rodney Bennett, alias Royden Barrie (d.1948).

Sleep, from the Woman Hater (1607) by John Fletcher (1579-1625), is one of four Fletcher settings (including the better-known Take, O take those lips away) written by Phillip Heseltine under his pseudonym, Peter Warlock. Warlock was fond of Elizabethan poetry, though in Sleep (1922) he stuck to his own musical language. By contrast, Vaughan Williams's setting (c.1901) of Shakespeare's Orpheus with his lute (from Henry VIII, Act IV, scene I) � which has attracted a number of composers, among them Gurney, German, MacFarren, Sullivan and, more recently, William Schumann � echoes the formality of the Elizabethan lute-song. The Trellis brings together two names one wouldn't generally associate: John Ireland and Aldous Huxley; indeed, it was the only Huxley text that Ireland set. And within Cole Porter's �The Tale of an Oyster' (from Fifty Million Frenchmen, 1929) one has to look hard for a summer connection, too: my conclusion is that, since the song involves regurgitation of its eponymous bivalve, we must assume there was no �r' in the month and thus is set some time between May and August.

The recital ends with a sequence of prayers and lullabies. Bernstein's My House, the other American contribution to this recital, comes from the incidental music he wrote for a new production of J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan in 1950. The Little Road to Bethlehem by Michael Head, to a text by Margaret Rose and published in 1946, seems to exhibit some temporal confusion: it's plainly a carol, but it talks of sunset and the lambs coming home � images of summer both. The gently twee Vespers from A.A. Milne's When We Were Very Young (1924) is set by Harold Fraser-Simson, better known for the Maid of the Mountains. And John Rutter's The Lord Bless You and Keep You, written for the funeral of a beloved teacher and friend, has rapidly become a favourite all around the globe in settings for chorus and orchestra, mixed chorus or - just as effective in its honesty and simplicity � voice and piano.

© Martin Anderson, 2002


“Sound and technical quality are excellent, as they almost invariably are at Champs Hill.”

Byzantion, MusicWeb International


“The execution is just perfect, with glorious singing by Felicity Lott and superlative accompaniment by Graham Johnson.”

Oleg Ledeniov, MusicWeb International


“This is an album to play and to savor — in the summer and all year round.”

Derek Greten-Harrison, Opera News


“A generation of Herald-reading music fans fell in love with this woman and her beautiful voice; here, on this gorgeous collection of 29 songs with the peerless Graham Johnson in accompaniment, we can cherish that voice all over again. Go on; indulge yourself.”

Michael Tumelty, The Herald Scotland


   
   

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