William Vincent Wallace: Songs

Reviewed on Wed 27 Nov, 2013

Richard Bonynge has long been an eloquent champion of the not quite forgotten but certainly overlooked William Vincent Wallace (1812-65), history being kinder to his contemporary Michael William Balfe, unofficially crowning him ‘Ireland’s opera composer’. This exquisite new collection of Wallace’s drawing room ballads finds Bonynge at the piano for a second time following his 2011 recital of Opera Fantasies and Paraphrases with Rosemary Tuck and reunites him with Sally Silver, the titular Rhine nymph on the previous year’s resurrection of the opera Lurline (both on Naxos). Silver’s liquescently bright, fresh-toned soprano is perfectly suited to a collection that avoids what Wallace biographer Andrew Lamb’s excellent notes describe as ‘the maudlin sentiment that disfigures much of Victorian balladry’. Instead, the mood is largely upbeat, with soloist and accompanist clearly enjoying the gracefully free-flowing, infectiously pretty melodic lines that characterise these settings of hymnals to nature and love. It’s a disc full of delightful discoveries, distinguished by persuasive performances of idiomatic charm.
–Michael Quinn