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Philip Langridge & Della Jones with Steuart Bedford (piano)

L Berkeley Five Poems, Op 53 .Night covers up the rigid land, Op 14 No 2. Lay your sleeping head, my love, Op 14 No 2b
Britten On this Island, Op 11 a. Fish in the unruffled lakes Night covers up the rigid land To lie flat on the back The sun shines down
What's on your mind? Cabaret Songs When you're feeling like expressing your affection Underneath the abject willow

Naxos 8.557204 [61 mins]

This is an excellent CD which I am unable to recommend.

The problem, as so often, is with the presentation, specifically the unavailability of any texts, which is more than a trivial frustration, though readers may think me churlish to complain as this is sold at Naxos's usual budget price.

Only relatively few of the poems are included in the fat volume of W H Auden's Selected Poems (Faber & Faber) which we borrowed from the local library specially. Many of them are listed in Emily Ezust's magnificent resource, The Lied and Art Song Text Page, but it seems she has had to withdraw the texts for copyright reasons? Were they all printed with the original Collins Classics CD of these fine performances? If so, might they be still available on data base, for possible posting on the Naxos website if permission were renewed?

John Steane opens his not dissimilar review in the October Gramophone:
" It's too bad: here I am, glad to see once more available a valued recital disc, and yet almost first thing after Philip Langridge has started singing (and enunciating quite clearly) I have to suppress an irritated realisation that no printed texts are included. These are all settings of verses by WH Auden, whose words insistently proclaim importance; they challenge the intelligence, they can hardly be assimilated in time with the music, and there is much about them which cannot intelligently be assimilated anyway."

Perhaps more notice will be taken of John Steane's comments than of mine, oft repeated over the years in Seen&Heard and in Musical Pointers, most recently in connection with the Philips reissue of 10 Haydn operas.

Other critics traverse this theme regularly; we are all at one in our priorities, which seem not to be those of the record companies and their presentation departments. They, and too some poets' publishers, seem to be cutting off their noses to spite their faces, as they say! No criticism of the recording or of the impeccable diction of both singers, Philip Langridge & Della Jones, whose Cabaret Songs, with their punch lines, are clearly intended to be grasped aurally, but that cannot be so for the elusive and allusive Auden poems in the body of this programme.

Steuart Bedford's accompaniments were a particular reason for my wishing to review this CD and I must declare an interest. More familiar to collectors from his work at Aldeburgh and as conductor of CDs and DVDs of Britten operas, he is less often heard at the piano. In the late '60s I had the privilege of producing two LPs (Unicorn and Turnabout) of his inspiring pianistic collaboration with my son, boy treble Simon Woolf, in songs by Russian composers, Szymanowski and 20 C British composers. His special quality, at what used to be called "accompanying" before Gerald Moore, comes through in his pointed contributions to this well planned programme, so I am pleased to have this CD - even without the words.

© Peter Grahame Woolf