A Lack of Variety Fails to Convince

Despite the best efforts of all concerned, the overall feeling on offer here is repetition.

Composer: Finzi, Butterworth, Warlock, Vaughan Williams, Somervell, Ireland and Bridge

Repertoire: Songs of War

Artist: Simon Keenlyside (bar),Malcolm Martineau (pf)
Rating: 3/5

Genre: Vocal

Label: Sony Classical 88697944242

The Music: Baritone Simon Keenlyside’s personal selection of songs about war and the effects of war are taken mainly from the late-19th/early-20th school of English writing for piano and voice. There’s plenty of Butterworth (from A Shropshire Lad), Vaughan Williams (including his popular song The Vagabond), Ireland and Finzi – all very lyrical and tonal. 

The Performance: In his liner notes, Keenlyside stresses that he was fascinated to realise that a great deal of war poetry is more about life than death, more about hope than despair. Thus he brings a lyrical sense of longing and nostalgia to these songs, and invests each one with a sharp sense of emotional clarity. There’s a salty force to ‘Sea Fever’ and a hushed melancholy to Somervell’s ‘Into My Heart’ for example. Martineau’s subtle accompanying perfectly suits the atmosphere of each song. 

The Verdict: Despite the charms on offer, there’s not quite enough variety of mood here to sustain an entire recital. After a while the different shades of nostalgia wrapped up in folk-song inspired melodies come to feel rather samey.

Want More? Keenlyside is on more exciting form on his disc Tales of Opera (Sony 88697 190432).