Songs of England | Australian Eloquence ELQ4825045

Songs of England


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Label: Australian Eloquence

Cat No: ELQ4825045

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 1

Genre: Vocal/Choral

Release Date: 6th October 2017



An original Decca recording of the soprano Jennifer Vyvyan in English song repertoire, coupled with traditional folksongs with another much-loved English singer of the 1950s and 60s, Norma Procter.

In the August 1953 issue of Opera magazine, the editor looked back on outstanding vocal achievements in the preceding season of opera. Drawing largely from stagings in London, he could pick out Maria Callas as Norma, Kathleen Ferrier as Orpheus and Nicola Rossi-Lemeni as Boris Godunov. In this exalted company he placed a young English soprano who had made her professional debut just five years previously, singling out Jennifer Vyvyan as Konstanze in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail.

Vyvyan’s penetrating soprano, ready dramatic wit and imposing presence had also caught the attention of Benjamin Britten. That professional debut was made in the premiere of his arrangement of The Beggar’s Opera, and just two months prior to Opera magazine’s editorial seal of approval, she had appeared as Lady Penelope Rich in the much-anticipated premiere of Gloriana. As a recorded complement to this Coronation opera, she had gone into the Decca studios in April and May (while Gloriana was in rehearsal) and recorded this survey of English song which was duly rush-released with a crown on the cover and an advertising legend on the back cover, ‘to commemorate the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’. Aside from its incidental place in recorded history, however, ‘Songs of England’ has many charms of its own.

The repertoire spans four centuries, from an anonymous lute-song and the evergreen madrigal by Thomas Morley, ‘Now is the month of maying’ through to contemporary songs by Britten, Quilter and Vaughan Williams. Procter died in May 2017, and this reissue of her first solo recital on record is a fitting tribute to the memory of a singer whose ‘exquisite contralto’ was critically recognised right from her distinguished debut on disc as part of Sir Adrian Boult’s recording of Messiah.

‘I have no hesitation in giving pride of place this month to “Songs of England”... Miss Vyvyan is always good and often very good, Ernest Lush is an admirable partner and the recording is of excellent quality.’ – Gramophone, September 1953

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