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Bryn Terfel: The complete "Songs from a Shropshire Lad" (Butterworth)

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Published on Aug 24, 2014

Songs from a Shropshire Lad (1911-12):
I. Loveliest of trees 00:00
II. When I was one-and-twenty 02:40
III. Look not in my eyes 04:05
IV. Think no more, lad 06:07
V. The lads in their hundreds 07:30
VI. Is my team ploughing? 09:25

Butterworth, George (1885-1916) -composer
Bryn Terfel -baritone
Malcolm Martineau-piano

Playlist: "The art of British song: Elgar, Somervell, Williams, Finzi..": https://www.youtube.com/playlist?acti...

Score: http://burrito.whatbox.ca:15263/imgln...

Critical opinion has generally singled out Butterworth’s settings as the finest among the many composers who were attracted to Housman’s A Shropshire Lad. They were written between 1909 and 1911 and, probably under the influence of Somervell, were initially conceived as a cycle with a loose narrative thread. In this guise nine songs received their premiere in Oxford on 16 May 1911; J Campbell McInnes was the baritone and Butterworth accompanied him. Butterworth must have swiftly changed his mind about the success of the sequence for by the following month it was the Six songs from ‘A Shropshire Lad’ in their published version that were performed in London on 20 June at the Aeolian Hall when McInnes again was the singer and Hamilton Harty accompanied.
It was in Butterworth’s Housman settings that English folksong was wholly and effortlessly absorbed into English art song, and no more so than in the perfection of ‘Loveliest of trees’. Its opening is a brief, magical descending phrase for piano, which seems to encapsulate both the delicacy and transience of the blossom and, by extension, of life itself. This and other snatches of melody in the song, such as the exultant outburst at the end of the first stanza, form the basis of the later orchestral rhapsody.
‘When I was one-and-twenty’ is the only time when Butterworth uses a traditional folk tune in his Housman songs. The young man’s bitter realisation of the folly of spurning the ‘wise’ man’s advice is brilliantly emphasised by a mere one-bar extension of the tune at the conclusion of the song. In ‘Look not in my eyes’ Housman alludes to the myth of Narcissus. It is set to a flowing melody in 5/4 time and has a fine moment of word painting at the end of the first verse where, on the word ‘eyes’, the music literally halts with an arpeggiated chord of C major, epitomising the forbidden long deep gaze. It is contrasted by a devil-may-care rendering of ‘Think no more, lad’, a fine piece of musical irony with a superficially carefree manner that masks the darker undertones of the poem.
A characteristic of the songs is their economy of means, something which is amply demonstrated in ‘The lads in their hundreds’ with its lilting melody, piano ritornello between verses derived from it and spare harmony. Arguably Butterworth’s greatest Housman setting, ‘Is my team ploughing?’ is a conversation between the quick and the dead with melody and harmony that are heart-rending in effect. Irony, once again, is at the heart of the poem where the ghost poses a series of questions to his living friend about his former life and lover. The poignant falling sequence of bare chords uncannily suggests the cold of the grave; by comparison the chords underpinning his friend’s answers course with life. After the chilling last response, side-stepping the truth about the fate of the dead man’s girl, the chords of the ghost fade to end the song in utter bleakness.

Source and lyrics:
http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/al....

Buy the CD here: http://www.amazon.com/Bryn-Terfel-Vag...

  • Category

  • Song

    • A Shropshire Lad: Loveliest Of Trees
  • Artist

    • Bryn Terfel;Malcolm Martineau
  • Album

    • 111 Years Of Deutsche Grammophon
  • Licensed to YouTube by

    • UMG (on behalf of DG); Music Sales (Publishing), Concord Music Publishing
  • Song

    • A Shropshire Lad: When I Was One-And-Twenty
  • Artist

    • Bryn Terfel;Malcolm Martineau
  • Album

    • 111 Years Of Deutsche Grammophon
  • Licensed to YouTube by

    • UMG (on behalf of DG); Public Domain Compositions
  • Song

    • A Shropshire Lad: III. Look Not in My Eyes
  • Artist

    • George Butterworth, Roderick Williams, Bryn Terfel, Malcolm Martineau
  • Album

    • The Vagabond (bass-baritone: Bryn Terfel, piano: Malcolm Martineau)
  • Licensed to YouTube by

    • UMG (on behalf of Deutsche Grammophon); Public Domain Compositions
  • Song

    • A Shropshire Lad: Think No More, Lad
  • Artist

    • Bryn Terfel;Malcolm Martineau
  • Album

    • 111 Years Of Deutsche Grammophon
  • Licensed to YouTube by

    • UMG (on behalf of DG); Public Domain Compositions
  • Song

    • A Shropshire Lad: V. The Lads in Their Hundreds
  • Artist

    • George Butterworth, Bryn Terfel, Malcolm Martineau
  • Album

    • The Vagabond (bass-baritone: Bryn Terfel, piano: Malcolm Martineau)
  • Licensed to YouTube by

    • UMG (on behalf of Deutsche Grammophon); Public Domain Compositions
  • Song

    • A Shropshire Lad: VI. Is My Team Ploughing?
  • Artist

    • George Butterworth, Bryn Terfel, Malcolm Martineau
  • Album

    • The Vagabond (bass-baritone: Bryn Terfel, piano: Malcolm Martineau)
  • Licensed to YouTube by

    • UMG (on behalf of Deutsche Grammophon); Public Domain Compositions

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