Sharon Carty mezzo soprano
Morgan Pearse baritone
BBC Singers
BBC Concert Orchestra
John Andrews conductor


CVS of course crops up in the biographies of his many successful pupils who forged newer forms of expression, though with his own basically late 19th century idiom, his music has tended to be overlooked – especially items like the contents of this new issue. However, there is evidence of forward thinking here in that, for instance, this disc of his orchestral songs features a good few folk-song arrangements.

Professor Dibble’s booklet notes explain the provenance of the repertoire on this disc – 22 tracks in all.

It is best to quote him verbatim:

Stanford …was in the habit of orchestrating his songs for solo voice and piano, often for the purpose of having an interlude or diversion in an orchestral concert…. or a choral concert, where the song might be an appropriate focus or ‘show piece’ for one of the attendant soloists.  In most cases this was for his fellow Irish countryman and première baritone, Harry Plunket Greene who had come to prominence in England in 1888….but there were others….

Settings of famous poets are to be found here, and include Keats, Shakespeare, Robert Browning and Walt Whitman. The latter’s Darest Thou now my Soul and Joy, Shipmate Joy, alas, fail to register much, given their short, almost perfunctory, treatment, as compared with the well-known settings by VW and Delius.

Irish folk melodies set include, yes, the Londonderry Air, in a neat, slightly prim arrangement, and other less well-known tunes used here also appear elsewhere in Stanford’s output (e.g. the 6 Irish Rhapsodies).

The problem here is a sort of ‘sameyness’ which means the listener is unlikely to want to hear the whole 72 minutes in one sitting, even though some pieces are vigorous enough (e.g. Three Cavalier Songs which include a lusty-sounding contribution from the BBC Singers).

Oddly, perhaps, easily the most satisfying item, the concluding one, is quite unlike the rest of the programme. This is the Song of Hope the third of the Six Bible Songs which were published in 1909.  These were quite elaborate and lengthy and had a short simple anthem for choir attached. 

Thus, church musicians may be aware of them, though the length of the solo precludes them from being included in a normal service. The Song of Hope is a setting of the penitential psalm no. 130 – Out of the deep have I called unto thee, Lord for which Stanford re-worked the organ accompaniment most effectively with added strings.  This is by far the most deeply felt, emotional and involving item on the disc, and thus it makes a most satisfying conclusion

Review by Geoffrey Atkinson