Elgar: The Hills of Dreamland – Orchestral Songs; Grania and Diarmid, Op 42

Reviewed on Mon 31 Dec, 2018

There’s much that favourably calls to mind Janet Baker (in The Wind of Dawn) and Kathleen Ferrier throughout in Kathryn Rudge’s impeccable diction and the gloss of her exquisitely plangent lower register.

Too long overlooked and in need of a champion, Elgar’s songs may just have found one in Kathryn Rudge. Dip into the rapt reverie of Pleading (whose opening line provides this rewarding disc’s title) for evidence of the young mezzo-soprano’s incisive way with text and music. There’s much that favourably calls to mind Janet Baker (in The Wind of Dawn) and Kathleen Ferrier throughout in Rudge’s impeccable diction and the gloss of her exquisitely plangent lower register – like burnished mahogany with rich caramel highlights. Henk Neven’s warm baritone strikes an authentic Edwardian note in Follow the Colours but falls short of Roderick Williams’s advocacy in the three Op 59 songs on Chandos (reviewed 12 March 2018). Barry Wordsworth and his BBC players provide rich support, coming beautifully to the fore in the lustrous incidental music for Grania and Diarmid. A bonus disc finds Nathalie de Montmollin in uneven voice ably accompanied at the piano by Barry Collett, who also contributes fine notes in a generously filled booklet.
–Michael Quinn