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The Songs of Roger Quilter Volume 1



Few composers – especially song composers – can claim to have written works that have remained in print since they were first published more than a hundred years ago. Roger Quilter is one such, though the number of his songs still in print is regrettably small. He wrote about 140 songs and arrangements. Quilter studied piano at the Frankfurt Conservatory, where his fellow students included Cyril Scott, Balfour Gardiner, and Percy Grainger. They were known as the Frankfurt Group, though they had little in common beyond a dislike of Beethoven. Quilter took the drawing-room song into another world: the sound and style is warm, tonal though often highly chromatic with an almost iridescent quality, a generous-sounding late-flowering Romantic colour, and highly sensitive to the text. Quilter worked in great detail on a song, refining it meticulously, and the resultant ease of sound belies the work that went into it. These songs are immensely rewarding to sing and play, and exploration reveals more and more of the skill that went into them, and their sheer musical depths. Most of his songs sit best on tenor and baritone voices: most, but not all, and many of the songs which are particularly suited to a woman’s voice are included here. The selection ranges from songs from 1907, to one published the year before he died, with most from his middle years, when he was at his most vibrant.

The Songs of Roger Quilter Volume 1


This is a good representative selection of Quilter’s songs beautifully sung by Charlotte de Rothschild, who is intelligently partnered by Adrian Farmer. The diction is exemplary, the melodic lines fluently delivered, the phrasing elegant and the pitching never faltering for a moment. Tempi make good sense and each song is presented with an obvious awareness of its musical as well as its emotional character, the texts cared for every bit as much as the notes. Coordination and balance between singer and pianist is immaculate and the recording clear and suitably warm.

Undoubtedly Roger Quilter has a very distinctive musical voice. He is one of those composers whose music, even if you have never heard the particular song before, is immediately recognisable, often from a single harmonic progression or melodic contour.

De Rothschild has a strong empathy with the idiom, she captures the essence of each song text beautifully and has one of those voices which you can enjoy for its own sake, without being too concerned about how it is carrying the musical detail. And I would imagine any singer would find in Adrian Farmer the ideal accompanist, always there, always supportive, always totally in sympathy with the demands of the vocal line. Taken individually, these are all very fine performances indeed. Every song is approached with the same self-contained refinement, never once allowing any kind of demonstrative gesture or emotional posturing to creep through to inflate one song above another. Perhaps, what I miss is the overarching sense of a journey which is what can transform a CD of miniatures from a succession of brief engagements into a prolonged and meaningful relationship. Marc Rochester, MusicWeb-International