English Song: Never Such Innocence
Each of the three composers on the CD recording “English Song: Never such innocence” experienced the horrors of the First World War – the death of friends and colleagues alike. The regret of this loss of innocence is reflected in their songs. Baritone Benjamin Hewat-Craw and Pianist Yuhao Guo have marked the 150th Anniversary of the birth of Ralph Vaughan Williams with songs by British Composers written between 1904 and 1914. Alongside Ralph Vaughan Williams, the two less well-known composers George Butterworth and Ivor Bertie Gurney also fought in the First World War. With the subject matter more relevant than ever due to currents events in Ukraine, this recording brings together the biographies of three very different composers, two of which ended abruptly with the outbreak of hostilities. Butterworth fell in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Gurney suffered with shellshock after his military service and spent the last 15 years of his life in a mental asylum. He died 85 years ago in 1937. This recording can be viewed as a snapshot of the fin de Siècle period in Great Britain. As so often in the arts, there were two influences: one looking back at the past, another attempting to create new, radical art forms. Both Butterworth and Gurney play with these two influences and were inspired by the past as well as the future; nevertheless, they each have a completely different approach. In light of his early death, Butterworth’s nuanced settings of “Six Songs of a Shropshire Lad” appear painfully melancholic. Ivor Bertie Gurney composed more than 300 songs and was almost forgotten. His “Five Elizabethan Songs” have been included in very few recordings to date. The songs overwhelm the listener with their astounding lightness, interwoven equally with humour, bleakness, and world weariness.
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
The House of Life (Poetry by Dante Gabriel Rossetti)
1. Love-Sight / 2. Silent Noon / 3. Love’s Minstrels / 4. Heart’s Haven / 5. Death in Love / 6. Love’s Last Gift
George Butterworth (1885-1916)
Six Songs of a Shropshire Lad (Poetry by Alfred Edward Housman)
1. Loveliest of Trees / 2. When I was one-and-twenty / 3. Look not in my eyes / 4. Think no more, lad / 5. The lads in their hundreds / 6. Is my team ploughing?
Ivor Bertie Gurney (1890-1937)
Five Elizabethan Songs
Orpheus (William Shakespeare) / 2. Tears (Anon) / 3. Under the greenwood tree (William Shakespeare) / 4. Sleep (John Fletcher) /
5. Spring (Thomas Nash)