If as I do you relish Janet Baker`s by now classic recording with Barbirolli of Elgar`s short song-cycle, her fruity, windswept contralto immediately commanding as a masthead in the first song, her ripe tones aptly salty throughout, then you might also wish to hear a calmer, less blatantly briny voice in these songs. If so, the late Bernadette Greevy is as close to perfect as I can imagine.
She was an Irish contralto, who by all accounts was not much of an actress, and preferred to live her life in her hometown of Dublin, where she died in 2008 at the age of 67, which is no doubt why I hadn`t heard of her until I listened to this wonderful recording a few years ago.
She had a clear, strong, warm voice, and sings these sometimes testing songs with gravitas and a purity of tone that are beguiling, and just as `right` as the more full-bodied approach of Baker.
She is buoyed up by some glorious playing by the much-missed Vernon Handley, a man who knew his way around the British repertoire as well as anybody, conducting the London Phil in sumptuous form.
Their playing of the great second symphony is a delight. Handley was a no-frills conductor, but never gives short shrift, suppying heft where it is needed, suitably indulgent of Elgar`s brooding lyricism in the Larghetto.
This is a treasured recording, and a coupling as rewarding as the Barbirolli (which
has the Du Pre cello concerto as its main attraction). A pity space couldn`t have been found in the booklet for the words of the songs, but at the price one can`t grumble. The remastered sound is superb in this 1981 recording, and I can only recommend it warmly. For the Sea Pictures alone it is worth having.