Venables: The Song of the Severn, Op 43; The Pine Boughs Past Music, Op 39; Nine Songs

Reviewed on Thu 10 Sep, 2015

For baritone and piano, the languidly liquescent melodies and quiet intensity of The Pine Boughs Past Music so adroitly map the cadences of four poems by Ivor Gurney that they sound wholly intrinsic.

Cut from a musical cloth whose threads weave and wind their way back to the era of Finzi, Vaughan Williams and Butterworth, Ian Venables has also inherited his predecessors’ tastes in poetry. The result is decidedly anachronistic for a composer born in 1955, but his pleasingly plangent sensibility and intelligently crafted signature rises above mere homage to offer a quietly thrilling continuity of temperament and tone in the English song tradition. Of particular interest here alongside nine piano-accompanied songs are two first recordings. Setting texts by Masefield, Housman, Drinkwater and Warner for baritone, string quartet and piano, The Song of the Severn evocatively hymns the composer’s native Worcestershire to sublime effect. For baritone and piano, the languidly liquescent melodies and quiet intensity of The Pine Boughs Past Music so adroitly map the cadences of four poems by Gurney that they sound wholly intrinsic. Roderick Williams’s eloquently soft, crisply enunciated baritone is beguilingly sympathetic throughout, the Carducci Quartet bewitchingly understated, Graham J Lloyd’s expressive piano nimble and nuanced.
–Michael Quinn