James Gilchrist tenor
Anna Tilbrook Piano


When I opened the packaging for this disc, I suspected that much of music would also be found on one of my favourite discs of English songs, that by Anthony Rolfe-Johnson with Lisa Milne and others, on Naxos (8.557116) but, much to my delight, only, O Mistress Mine, Orpheus with his Lute and Go lovely Rose and a couple of other short songs are doubled up, as both discs also explore some of Quilter’s lesser-known 150 songs.  So, James Gilchrist and his ideal accompanist Anna Tilbrook, have done us a great favour. 

Gilchrist writes that Quilter’s star has sometimes been rather faded, and I recall, in the mid-70’s standing at his grave in Falkenham churchyard in Suffolk, when I was having some songs performed alongside his, seeing it overgrown with weeds and bracken. Now, however, all serious, and indeed many amateur students of singing, would expect to have at least one of his songs on their shelves, and in their repertoire. And it could well be his famous Shakespeare settings such as Under the Greenwood Tree that they would know.

Gilchrist and Tilbrook open with six Shakespeare settings, we are then offered five songs under the heading A Floral Tribute, including a beautiful arrangement of a Manx Ballad The Fuchsia Tree. Then come some general folk songs such Barbara Allen. There follows four songs under the heading At the Graveside which includes a setting of Shelley’s famous Music, when soft Voices die, and  after that some German songs. We end with five songs under Songs of Love including the well-known Love’s Philosophy, words again by Shelley.

Quilter was one of the so-called Frankfurt group (which included Percy Grainger) so one should not be surprised to find a set of German songs, entitled Four Songs of Mirza Schaffy. These may well date from his time as a student in the late 1890’s; they were revised however in 1902 but might constitute the earliest pieces here. Failing that, Now sleeps the crimson Petal could be earlier, and is dated 1897, despite its opus number of 3 no 2. However, it is surely one his most beautiful creations.

As Gilchrist admits, these songs have been a part of his life for as long as he can remember, that is at least 30 years, and he sings them with affection and understanding, but I sometimes wish that he was a little more gentle, even restrained at times. All texts are provided, and the recording is clear and although it has space, it is intimate and warm.

Review by Gary Higginson