« »

Songs Of War (CD):Keenlyside and Martineau SONY 2011

Songs Of War CD

Hear audioclips below!!!

Songs Of War Hi-res Cover

Five Stars: The Sunday Telegraph

Five Stars: The Express

CD of the Week: The Sunday Times

…a beautifully judged recording, exquisitely sung; poignant but never sentimental.” The Observer

Gramophone Award Solo Vocal 2012

Performers: Simon Keenlyside (baritone) & Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Label : SONY
Release Date: 7 November 2011
ASIN: B005LSNY0O

Tracks
Click the audioplayer to hear an excerpt of each song

1. John Ireland: Sea Fever

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


2. Arthur Somervell: Into my heart an air that kills

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Ralph Vaughan Williams: “Songs of Travel”
3. Youth and Love (No 4)
4. The Infinite shining heavens (No 6)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


George Butterworth: A Shropshire Lad”
5. Loveliest of Trees
6. When I was one-and-Twenty
7. Look not in my Eyes
8. Think no more,  Lad
9. The Lads in their hundreds
10. Is my Team ploughing?

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


11. Arthur Somervell: There pass the careless people

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


12. Peter Warlock: The night

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


13. Arthur Somervell: White in the Moon

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


George Butterworth: “Bredon Hill and other songs
14. On Bredon Hill
15. O fair enough are sky and Plain
16. When the Lad for Longing sighs
17. On the idle Hill of Summer
18. With Rue my Heart is laden

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


19. John Ireland: The Vagabond

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


20. Anonymous/Ireland: The Three Ravens

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


21. Finzi: Fear no more the heat o’ the sun

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


22. Frank Bridge: Thy Hand in mine

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Ralph Vaughan Williams: “Songs of Travel”
23. The Vagabond  (No 1)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


24. Ned Rorem: An Incident

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Ivor Gurney:
25.
When Death to either Shall come
26. In Flanders

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


27. Arthur Somervell: The Street sounds to the Soldiers’ Tread

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Kurt Weill:
28.
Beat! Beat! Drums!
29. Dirge for two Veterans

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

Songs of War is a very personal selection of songs about war, carefully chosen by Simon Keenlyside. The songs contemplate the innermost thoughts of soldiers on the front lines, concentrating on themes of homesickness, longing, fear and love.

Simon Keenlyside has provided the sleeve notes himself for this album, displaying his own personal thoughts on the compositions, poetry and subject matter. The album’s cover image, provided by the Imperial War Museum, is a photograph of a soldier from WW1 writing a letter home, reflecting the album’s themes of longing and homesickness. Full song texts are included in the booklet.

Click here to read Simon Keenlyside presents ‘SONGS OF WAR’

Click below to read an article, including an interview with Simon, in The Independent about Songs of War
Requiem for an art form: Why modern composers are fighting a losing battle

 

What the critics say

Andrew Clark, Financial Times, 5 November 2011

Four Stars

beautifully vocalised and artlessly characterised by Keenlyside... Click link above to read full review

Mark Valencia, Classicalsource.com, November 2011

The handsome, burnished baritone of Simon Keenlyside brings out the nobility of these English-language settings. Such a cultivated singer could scarcely do otherwise. Songs of War is a personal selection by the singer, and it shares seventeen of its twenty-nine titles with Bryn Terfel’s 1995 collection of English favourites, The Vagabond (Deutsche Grammophon). As then, Malcolm Martineau is the accompanist. More than anything, this stirring Songs of War release is elevated to a rarefied plane by inclusions such as three Walt Whitman settings from America and some exquisite miniatures by Frank Bridge (Coleridge’s Thy Hand In Mine), Gerald Finzi (Shakespeare’s Fear No More The Heat O’ The Sun) and John Ireland (Masefield’s Sea Fever). There are also three songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Although the album’s title and evocative cover-photograph recall the Great War, there are songs here (as Keenlyside concedes in his written note) for which that association is tenuous at best. No matter: together they make for a satisfying recital. The two stanchions are George Butterworth’s A. E. Housman settings: the ever-popular A Shropshire Lad and, at the disc’s heart in more ways than one, his marvellous other settings of the poet, collected by Butterworth (but not by Sony, which fails to connect them in its track listing) as Bredon Hill and Other Songs. Indelible and deceptively simple, these are proper art songs. ‘Bredon Hill’ itself has a sensational piano part that evokes mood and place while complementing and partnering the vocal drama, whereas the closing setting, ‘With Rue My Heart Is Laden’, is a devastating four-line epilogue: short, stark, haunting and heartbreaking.

The two Ivor Gurney choices are a disappointment. When Death to Either Shall Come is slight and unmemorable, while the more familiar In Flanders has a problem with its ungainly repetition of “Cotswold” – a virtually non-singable collision of consonants (although it will seldom have been rendered more persuasively than here). Keenlyside’s timbre would be ideally suited to some of Gurney’s stronger music: his neglected cycle The Western Playland is an alternative Housman epic and one that shares several texts with Butterworth. Arthur Somervell (yet another setter of A Shropshire Lad, and the earliest of all the composers who chanced upon these poems) fares better: the insouciant horror of There Pass the Careless People and the melodic elegance of White in the Moon show this composer at his best; the ra-ta-ta-ta of The Street Sounds to the Soldiers’ Tread less so. This disappointing track is also the album’s one isolated blip both for Keenlyside (sounding tired) and Martineau (clangorous).

Amid all the stoic Englishness, Ned Rorem’s bold setting of an even bolder text, Walt Whitman’s An Incident, is a harrowing reminder of war in all its foul, dignity-stripping reality. For two minutes the listener’s ears are scalded by Martineau’s attack and seared by the song’s horrific word-painting. It is opera in miniature, and properly distressing. Keenlyside’s traversal of humanity’s darkest legacy ends with a valuable pair of Whitman settings by Kurt Weill. The nightmarish Beat! Beat! Drums! has a cynical musical-theatre edge that contrasts brusquely with the courageous despair of Dirge for Two Veterans, a tragic portrait of two victim-brothers whose “double grave awaits them.” The booklet includes the sung texts.

Paul Callan, The Express, 11 November 2011

Verdict: 5/5

THIS CD is a thoughtful and profound way to mark this weekend’s Remembrance Sunday. The baritone Simon Keenlyside’s recital covers a wide range of aspects of war and its horrendous consequences. These range from George Butterworth’s setting of A.E.Housman’s A Shropshire Lad to two bitter songs by Kurt Weill and Walt Whitman – savage indictments of conflict.

Stephen Pritchard, The Observer, 13 November 2011

Despite the title, most of the songs in this admirable collection are anything but warlike. There is no place for patriotic bombast here; instead, these polished miniatures yearn for a vanished pastoral England and express nobly romantic notions of love, fidelity and the human spirit. Vaughan Williams, Butterworth, Gurney, Ireland, Warlock and Somervell are all represented, but Simon Keenlyside and Malcolm Martineau do not limit themselves to England’s whimsical finest, finding room for astringent examples from Ned Rorem and Kurt Weill as well. It’s a beautifully judged recording, exquisitely sung; poignant but never sentimental.

Hugh Canning, Sunday Times, 13 November 2011

CD of the Week

At 52, the British baritone is in peak vocal health, and certainly young-sounding enough to portray the men in their late teens and twenties who leave their homes and loves, never to return, in settings of war poetry or other music by composers such as George Butterworth (1885-1916) and Ivor Gurney (1890-1937), who both fought in the first world war. Keenlyside begins with John Ireland’s beloved Sea Fever, which as he admits in his eloquent and heartfelt booklet note, is not strictly a war song, but evokes the same sense of a lad venturing into the unknown with the risk of losing love and life. It would be hard to imagine it being better sung: indeed I can’t think of another baritone who can match him for beautiful tone, nuance of expression and immaculate diction. This sets the tone for a superb programme, incorporating Butterworth’s masterpiece, A Shropshire Lad, whose final song, Is My team Ploughing? – a dialogue between a dead youth and the friend who has replaced him in his sweetheart’s bed – is movingly sung by Keenlyside, with Martineau wringing out the last drop of pathos in the tear-laden piano postlude. Riches hear include Finzi’s Shakespeare setting Fear no More the Heat of the Sun, Vaughan Williams’s The Vagabond, Gurney’s In Flanders and two Walt Whitman settings by Kurt Weill, in which regret for the loss of young life mingles with rage. Keenlyside is incomparable here, in one of the recordings of the year.

Michael Kennedy, The Sunday Telegraph, 11 December 2011

Five Stars

The great baritone has chosen 29 songs in some way connected with war. Keenlyside includes all the George Butterworth Shropshire Lad songs. His singing of Vaughan Williams’s The Infinite Shining Heavens and Gurney’s In Flanders is beyond praise for its emotional restraint. Finzi’s Fear No More the Heat o’ the Sun is another tour de force of incomparable singing. Malcolm Martineau offers supreme piano accompaniment throughout.

Piers Burton_page,recordreview.co.uk, January 2012

Comparison:
Somervell A Shropshire Lad:
Wilson-Johnson, Norris (Hyperion) CDH55089 (1986)

The precious disc of historical recordings included with the new John Ireland Companion (reviewed on page 92) includes not one, but a pair of 78rpm recordings of Ireland’s famous setting of Masefield’s Sea Fever. One was made in 1919 by Dundee-born baritone Fraser Gange (1886-1962), shortly before his move to the USA, the other by a music-hall singer called Betty Chester, who used to include the song when performing in revue or variety shows!  Apparently this contributed hugely to its spread and popularity. Both are priceless examples (in both senses) of bygone styles: I wouldn’t be without them for worlds.

Simon Keenlyside’s new song recital, issued under the rubric ‘Songs of War’, actually begins with Sea Fever. Leaving aside (for the moment) the question of what it is doing here at all, the baritone’s delivery of it demonstrates all the hallmarks that will stamp the entire disc. Sheer beauty of sound, for a start: only folk living on Mars, and maybe not even them, will be unaware by now that we have a very great singer in our midst, up there with, say, Fischer-Dieskau or Souzay in the recent past and Terfel or Goerne today. Then, there is his willingness to explore lesser areas: one can find singers all too happy to flit from opera house to opera house with their Rigolettos or Leporellos and not do that much digging around. Yet the present collection, even if some of it occupies ground familiar to British audiences (Butterworth, Vaughan Williams, Warlock,) pushes the boat out with Bridge and Gurney and Somervell, to say nothing of Kurt Weill and Ned Rorem. Keenlyside’s mark is everywhere apparent and full marks to him for persuading Sony to indulge his choices. The recorded acoustic is domestic and relatively intimate rather than churchy and expansive, but the singer’s ample forte, when it happens, never blasts one out of one’s seat. Malcolm Martineau’s pianism is, as you would expect, an essential and impeccable component. To hear Keenlyside and Martineau together in Finzi’s immortal Shakespeare setting Fear No More the Heat o’ the Sun is to be made to think, too briefly, about what life is really all about.

Reading and hearing A.E. Housman can also have a similar effect. If you have never read through A Shropshire Lad uninterrupted from beginning to end, you should: again, it can be life changing. I’d wager Keenlyside has. More than half of the songs here are settings of Housman. You soon get past the slightly fey imagery of light foot lads and lasses, to the bleak, dark vision of a bitter ironist – and magical wordsmith. The Butterworth settings of Housman, as done here, are profoundly moving; just the very start of Loveliest of Trees, with its evocation of snow and cherry blossom and its underlay of the transience of all things bright and beautiful, reminds us that more die of heartbreak. Having a soft spot for the Somervell settings of Housman as recorded long ago by David Wilson-Johnson, I was delighted to find Keenlyside tackling four of them too, and just as convincingly; that is to say, aware of the frailty behind the heartiness.

Richard Lawrence,Gramophone, February 2012

Keenlyside reflects on war and its musical refractions. At first sight, ‘Songs of War’ seems an odd title for this collection of songs by, mostly, 20th-century English composers. In a thoughtful booklet-note, Simon Keenlyside explains. After contrasting the ‘relative peace and stability’ of today with the sacrifices made in war by earlier generations, he cites ‘Sea Fever’ as reflecting ‘something of the restlessness of so many old soldiers once the conflicts are over’.

Perhaps the connection is tenuous but that will hardly impede enjoyment and appreciation of this excellent recital. The composer most generously represented is George Butterworth, who was killed on the Somme in 1916. A Shropshire Lad is here, as is – though, oddly, the title isn’t given – Bredon Hill and Other Songs. One can imagine a more poignant account of the ghostly voice in ‘Is my team ploughing?’ but ‘The lads in their hundreds’ is all the more moving for Keenlyside’s robustness. I was struck by the postlude of ‘Loveliest of trees’: it’s not Hugo Wolf but, as eloquently played by Malcolm Martineau, it does have a kind of Ravelian grace.

There is more Housman in four songs from the 10 of A Shropshire Lad by Arthur Somervell, not placed as a group. The vocal line in the first stanza of ‘Into my heart’ is all on one note: Keenlyside shapes it with feeling, as the piano recalls ‘Loveliest of trees’ (sadly not included here). Peter Warlock’s ‘The Night’ starts with an indentical device, again coloured beautifully by the singer. The rest of the programme is equally rewarding and Keenlyside’s diction is perfect.

Sylvain Fort, ForumOpera.com

” … voire tout simplement un des meilleurs disques de mélodies que je connaisse. La comparaison dans le Shropshire Lad de Butterworth entre autres est inévitable. …”

Translation by Jane Prowse

Simon’s brotherly compassion

These twentieth century English songs speak to us about the wars we engage in and those yet to come, about people dying in wars and loved ones who are many miles away. Or else they talk about something completely different, but this doesn’t seem to matter. Keenlyside’s choice is excellent. However, one cannot help thinking that it is very similar to another set: seventeen of the twenty-nine songs selected for this CD had already been chosen by Bryn Terfel for his 1995 CD “The Vagabond and other songs” (Deutsche Grammophon).

The reason that I mention the latter is because “The Vagabond…” is not just still Terfel’s best disc, but is probably one of the best English song discs in absolute terms, if not quite simply one of the best song discs that I have ever heard. The comparison in The Shropshire Lad settings by Butterworth, amongst others, is inevitable. Here Keenlyside seems to be seeking to express himself in a more courageous, perhaps a more virile way than Terfel, who prefers to keep his voice soft, almost reducing it to a whisper. Keenlyside is a soldier, even a mercenary. He does not spare the volume with his beautiful, burnished voice, which occasionally leads to a certain degree of muscular tension and restlessness in some of these songs; one wonders if this is necessary. In “The lads in their hundreds” and “Is my team ploughing” the genius of Terfel’s ghostly whisper is sorely missed.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that the songs in this collection are practically all first rate, with two striking Kurt Weill songs (last recorded by Hampson in his album dedicated to Walt Whitman) and a very theatrical rendering of the Ned Rorem setting. The energy that Keenlyside is eager to convey is offset by his care and attention to each line and his vocal shaping, both of which are exemplary. And when it comes to confiding or recollecting, this firmness dissolves into tenderness (When Death to Either Shall Come”, “In Flanders“) and then the singer displays an infectious and, dare I say it, brotherly compassion.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

diana jones September 5, 2012 at 9:57 am

Thanks Jane for this excellent translation! Sylvain Fort’s comments that suggest Simon shouldn’t have bothered recording these songs because Bryn Terfel had already recorded them nearly 2 decades ago are a bit odd. It’s like saying no-one should record Schubert songs, or Dichterliebe now because they’ve already been done! Very strange!!
Diana.

Jane September 4, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Hello, it’s me again!!! I fully appreciate that opinions, especially of singers, are somewhat subjective, but I really do wish that Sylvain Fort had not made such an unfavourable comparison between Simon’s “Songs of War” and Bryn Terfel’s “The Vagabond”. I think it would have sufficed to mention that BT had very successfully recorded a number of the same songs and approached them in a different way and left it at that. And since 1995 is actually 17 years ago, it seems a bit pointless to make comparisons anyway!
~ Jane

Jane August 23, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Er…sorry, it isn’t in the blog at all. If you click on “Read review” in the section entitled “Solo Vocal”, which you come to when you click on the CD cover at the top of this thread, that is where the review is….which probably means that you have already read it. Apologies again, therefore, for wasting your time!

Jane August 21, 2012 at 9:12 am

I haven’t listened to the podcast yet, but there is a very good review of it in the “blog” section.

Sue August 20, 2012 at 11:33 am

Songs of War shortlisted for solo vocal Gramophone award.
http://www.gramophone.co.uk/classical-music-news/solo-vocal-mark-padmore-roderick-williams-and-simon-keenlyside
However, inexplicable comment about Simon’s recital skills in the podcast. Nevertheless, a well-deserved appreciation of the CD and fingers crossed for a win.

Jane November 15, 2011 at 4:46 pm

What a fantastic CD this is! I can only agree with all the wonderful, positive comments that have already been made about it. I just wanted to say that according to radio 3 (Petroc T at 8:00am or thereabouts) it has come into the classical specialist chart at no.7, which is pretty encouraging! The annoying thing was that Petroc played one of the shortest tracks so we heard very little of Simon’s beautiful voice, not forgetting Malcolm’s marvellous piano playing.
I am looking forward to CD review a week on Saturday when Hilary Finch is apparently going to look at it in a bit more detail (i.e. more than last Saturday – which was another 5 second wonder!)

Bill Palik November 13, 2011 at 4:22 am

Well! Songs of War arrived today (Nov 12), and may well have gotten here on 11/11/11 except yesterday was a postal holiday. I was a bit worried looking at the recording dates in mid-February, barely a week after Simon was “SO sick in Paris” (his words), coughing during The Lads in Their Hundreds, etc. No matter. This recording is special, with a more flattering acoustic than the previous Sony disc of Schumann/Brahms, and really displays the range and tonal variety in the voice. At least 15 of the songs are new to me, and I shall have the joy of increasing familiarity with repeated listening. Whitman is not my poet (I’m an Emily Dickinson man), but Simon’s rendition of Weill’s Dirge setting had me in tears, as did at least one other song. What a wide range of music – the more conventional settings equally winning as the more adventurous ones. Impeccable diction and constantly imaginative musicality we take for granted with SK, but this is a splendid disc. I could go on, but would only dilute and not amplify my reaction – Bravo!

DK November 1, 2011 at 1:53 am

Third encore at the Herbst recital was Percy Grainger’s setting of A Sprig of Thyme which he sang for his son (an alternative interpretation of the “young man” of the last verse).

First three encores in Santa Monica were the same as in San Francisco but the fourth was Schubert’s Der Wanderer an den Mond (where I think Mr. Martineau expected An mein Klavier which must have been the fourth encore both in SFO and Vancouver).

DK

Kew October 29, 2011 at 4:53 am

Hello Janet,

I happened to be in the area and, more importantly, was fortunate enough to see Simon give a wonderful recital in San Francisco. As Shawn said, “A Shropshire Lad” was a very heart-felt part of the last night performance.
As per your question, he gave 4 encores as below. Although I am not quite sure of the third one, I think it may be one of the Vaughan Williams’s songs. Before singing it, Simon talked a bit about his son Owen. Seems that he likes hearing his father sing.
1. Der Einsame (Schubert)
2. Sea Fever (Ireland)
3. (English song)
4. An mein Klavier (Schubert)

Cheers
Kew

Janet October 28, 2011 at 7:42 am

Hi Shawn – Hope you get Simon’s CD soon. Do you know what the encores were last night? Janet

Shawn Ying October 28, 2011 at 6:18 am

He sang George Butterworth: “A Shropshire Lad” tonight in San Francisco. It brought tears in my eyes. Cannot wait to get this CD. Too bad that the CD was not available for us to purchase at the recital.

Neville October 1, 2011 at 7:42 am

Superb selection! I have the recording of “Sea Fever” from Aldeburgh but cannot wait to hear this version. One of my favourite songs and I think Simon’s is the best I have ever heard
Neville

Sue September 17, 2011 at 10:02 am

Fantastic! I’ve been waiting for the Butterworth every since I heard Simon sing it at the John Cameron memorial concert at the Royal Northern College of Music – it was heart-breakingly beautiful.
Can’t wait until November.

Leave a Comment