This CD contains some of Vaughan Williams' best vocal music. The singers are superb and the accompanist is sensitive. I love the whole CD, but adore Searching For Lambs, which is a touching love song, set for violin and tenor duet Silent Noon It Was A Lover and His Lass Antiphon, the last song in the set of Five Mystical Songs. It is a great song of faith, set by an infamous agnostic. The Church would be the poorer without Vaughan Williams wonderful hymns and arrangements of hymns. [I also recommend Vaughan Williams' Hymnal and Pilgrm's Progress.]. I bought this set to hear On Wenlock Edge and am not disappointed. It is a great song cycle. By the way, this bargain-priced CD includes all the song texts. One of my favourite vocal CDs. Highly recommended.
Over the past few years, I have become increasingly fond of English Song and, specifically, Vaughan Williams' writing for the male voice. This collection should delight most like-minded fans of this music; the singers involved are two of Britain's finest, the late, much lamented tenor Anthony Rolfe Johnson and the baritone Simon Keenlyside, while the pianist is Graham Johnson, perhaps the very best of contemporary accompanists. The recording was made in 1996, at which point Rolfe Johnson was perhaps just past his vocal prime, while Keenlyside was at the start of his international career. Both are in excellent voice and what Mr Rolfe Johnson lacks in freshness of tone, he more than makes up for this in artistry. This is especially true of the song cycle "On Wenlock Edge", given here in the original version for tenor, piano and string quartet. The other substantial work performed here is the "Five Mystical Songs". There are a number of performance options for this work, but it is here given in the version for baritone and piano and Keenlyside and Johnson successfully convey both the simplicity and the fervour of a piece that never fails to move. With the exception of "The Water Mill" (with its mill-wheel turning in the accompaniment) and the lovely "Silent Noon", the other songs featured here are less well-known, but well worth discovering. The disc is "book-ended" by two duets, "It was a Lover and his Lass" and "Dirge for Fidele". The disc provides delight from start to finish and I recommend it unreservedly. Full texts are included.
I only received this today, but I have already played On Wenlock Edge twice. This is a sensitive, moving performance, but also with dramatic power. The characterisation in "Is my Team Ploughing" is particularly telling.