"My True Love Hath My Heart" is an anthology of English song performed by the mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly. The singer has a smooth, mellow voice, perfectly suited to this repertoire, and it is interesting to note that she may be compared on disc with the superlative Janet Baker whose recital from the 1960s can be found on a reissued Regis CD, and includes a good many of the same songs. No doubt it would be difficult to get the better of that fine singer, but recording techniques have greatly improved since those days, and Chandos do a superb job here.
The programme begins with three of Britten's folksong arrangements ("O Waly Waly", "How Sweet the Answer", and "Early One Morning"), along with an arrangement of the Corpus Christi Carol from "A Boy Was Born". As Michael Pilkington notes, Britten's folksong arrangements were distinctive in that he imbued them with his personal style rather than simply setting the original tune without embellishment.
There are four songs by Herbert Howells, the undoubted highlight of which is King David. The stature of this song is borne out by the fact that Howells himself considered it to be his finest, and Walter de la Mare, who provided the text, wanted no-one else to set it after Howells had done so. On this recording Sarah Connolly gives it a beautiful, unhurried treatment, wonderfully emphasising the change of key at "he rose". "Come Sing and Dance" is brim full of gladness, and Connolly fully conveys the mood of ecstasy in the tone of her voice. Other Howells songs are the ever-popular Gavotte, and the lesser-known "Lost Love".
John Ireland is represented by the slightly folksy "Her Song" (Hardy), "My True Love Hath My Heart" (Philip Sidney) and "Tryst" (Arthur Symons), and Ivor Gurney by two of his most outstanding compositions, "Sleep" (Fletcher) and By a Bierside" (Masefield). The latter has a heart-rending poignancy, but the final piano flourish introduces a surprising uplift of mood. Michael Head is the least well-known of the composers on this disc, but his two contributions, "Foxgloves" and "Cotswold Love", certainly deserve to sit among this exalted company, and are fully conversant with the twentieth century English art-song tradition. The inimitable Peter Warlock, meanwhile, weighs in with "The First Mercy", in which Bruce Blunt's touching Christmas text is fully reciprocated by Warlock's tender, gently rocking music.
Many of the songs on this disc are classics of the genre, but the final offering, Richard Rodney Bennett's "A History of The Dansant", is something of a novelty. The poems, by Bennett's sister Meg Peacocke, are imaginary depictions of smart-set life on the Riviera in the 1920s-30s, and the music, with its foxtrot and tango rhythms, is intended to reflect the upper-crust antics of that period.
All in all, this is a "must-have" disc for all lovers of English art-song.