Trevor Alexander baritone 
Peter Crockford piano

Divine art ddx 21114

Let us start with the positives. This is a generous recital of 21 songs composed by English composers, largely in the first half of the 20th century, and includes some outstanding examples like Vaughan Williams Silent Noon and Butterworth’s Is my team Ploughing? which, curiously, begins the CD. It also includes songs and composers which may well be new to you, for example the two songs especially composed for these performers by Clive Pollard, or the emotionally gripping  Do not go my love by Richard Hageman (a new name to me) – a setting of Tagore.

But there is more. Trevor Alexander’s voice is one I can listen to without hesitation, and with much pleasure, and he is aided and abetted by the very sensitive Peter Crockford, with whom he has worked for some time. The voice is a light, lyrical baritone which is rarely forced. The songs have been carefully chosen to suit this timbre. The booklet offers a brief ‘Artists’ Foreword’, and then detailed biographies of the composers and the poets; however, no texts are given. The print is small and may trouble older eyes, but you may not need the texts anyway as Alexander’s diction is almost perfect.

As mentioned, there are some unusual and rare songs here. I like the juxtaposition, for example, of Haydn Wood’s Love’s garden of roses, one of his most popular songs from 1918, with Peter Gellhorn’s Autumn. This is a desolate and moving setting by a composer who should be so much better known. He had to leave Germany in the 1930s as a Jew and resided in Britain, despite being arrested in 1941.

Now, there is other side of the coin. Practically all of the songs are slow, and quite often I do not feel that Alexander has really dipped down deep enough into the inner meaning of the texts. There are exceptions though, such as Frank Bridge’s wonderful What shall I your true love tell? I also feel that breaths are occasionally taken in unnecessary places. The booklet cover has a dramatic brown sky on the cover and back which might reflect the generally slow songs chosen, but also it makes the titles, especially the names of the composers and poets, not particularly clear. The recording is a little dull and needed more spacing between the voice and piano, even though it was recorded in the vast space of the Henry Wood Hall.

However, if you are coming to this repertoire for the first time, this could be a good disc to dip into. 

Review by Gary Higginson