Hyperion Records

Quilter, Roger (1877-1953)  

Roger Quilter

born: 1 November 1877
died: 21 September 1953
country: United Kingdom

Roger Quilter was born in Brighton on 1 November 1877, third son of Sir Cuthbert Quilter. He was educated at Eton and then studied for four years in Frankfurt-am-Main under the Russian teacher of composition, Ivan Knorr. Fellow students were Cyril Scott, Norman O’Neill, Balfour Gardiner and Percy Grainger. All these were composers of some reputation in their lifetimes, but only Quilter and Grainger produced work which is still performed regularly today. Grainger is remembered for the extraordinary variety of his output, from simple entertainment pieces such as Country Gardens to works for chorus and large orchestra like Danny Deever and The Bride’s Tragedy. Quilter was a writer of songs, and virtually nothing else. There was an opera, Julia, and a couple of ballets, and the once well known A Children’s Overture. On the other hand he composed more than one hundred songs. At least half of these remain in the repertoire, loved by performers and audiences alike.

In 1900, when Quilter composed his first published songs, the tradition of the drawing-room ballad was still strong, with songs by Liza Lehmann, Maude Valérie White, Arthur Sullivan, Edward German and others selling well. It is true that Parry, Stanford and Somervell were trying to raise the standard of song-writing, but they were exceptional; even Elgar’s songs are mostly in the ballad tradition. At first sight Quilter’s songs appear to be equally devoted to the popular audience. There are no great technical demands on the performers, nor intellectual demands upon the listener. However, a Quilter song is instantly recognizable as such, with an individuality lacking in most of the composers mentioned above, at least in the field of song-writing. The vocal line has a natural flow, nearly always enhancing the rhythm of the words rather than forcing this rhythm into a preconceived melody. The accompaniments are almost unique in their layout; always providing rhythmic interest and snatches of countermelody for the pianist to find, but all without restricting the singer’s necessary rubato. For the songs of Quilter depend on a free use of rubato for their effect as much as do those of Bellini and Donizetti. However, these great Italian melodists gave little more than an Alberti bass as accompaniment, focusing all the attention on the voice. Quilter succeeded in creating a fully realized piano accompaniment which yet allows the singer full freedom. Pianists, as distinct from accompanists, will tend to find Quilter reasonably interesting and Bellini and Donizetti deadly dull to play. The true accompanist will find all three fascinating, needing immense sensitivity to the implications of the vocal line and the rhythmic freedom which results from a true understanding of the relation of words to music.

A third factor which raises Quilter’s songs above the level of most of his contemporaries is his choice of poetry. His favourite poets were Shakespeare, Herrick, Shelley and Blake; he also set a number of anonymous Elizabethan lyrics. Only Parry showed a similar taste in verse yet, like Parry, Quilter’s use of contemporary poetry is rather less understandable. Nora Hopper’s verse is trivial, and Sir William Watson’s not much better, while Ernest Dowson and W H Henley were hardly in the class of Herrick. Peter Warlock acknowledged his debt to Quilter and appreciated his work, as the following quotations from letters illustrate: Roger Quilter’s O mistress mine is ‘one of the very few things that very simply send me into ecstasies every time I play it’ (28 October 1912); ‘best lyrics … remain the sole example of modern English music that one can hear over and over again with enriched pleasure’ (9 August 1919). Warlock also sent Quilter a copy of his song Late Summer with the dedication:

To Roger Quilter,
without whose genial influence
there would have been no songs by
Peter Warlock.

from notes by Michael Pilkington 1996

Albums
'Quilter: Songs' (CDA66878)
Quilter: Songs
Buy by post £10.50 CDA66878 
'Bird Songs at Eventide' (CDH55156)
Bird Songs at Eventide
Buy by post £4.40 CDH55156  Helios (Hyperion's budget label) Composers of World War I  
'On this Island' (CDA67227)
On this Island
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA67227  Archive Service  
'Songs my father taught me' (CDA67290)
Songs my father taught me
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67290 
'Songs to Shakespeare' (CDA66480)
Songs to Shakespeare
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA66480  Archive Service   Download currently discounted
'The Power of Love' (CDA67888)
The Power of Love
Buy by post £8.40 CDA67888  Composers of World War I  
'A Treasury of English Song' (HYP30)
A Treasury of English Song
HYP30  Super-budget price sampler — Deleted  
Alphabetical listing of all musical works
A good child  No 1 of Four Child Songs, Op 5 (Quilter)
A last year's rose  No 3 of Four Songs, Op 14 (Quilter)
Arab Love Song, Op 25 No 4 (Quilter)
Autumn Evening  No 1 of Four Songs, Op 14 (Quilter)
Barbara Allen (Anon/Quilter)
Blow, blow, thou winter wind  No 3 of Three Shakespeare Songs, Op 6 (Quilter)
Brown is my love  No 5 of Seven Elizabethan Lyrics, Op 12 (Quilter)
By a fountainside  No 6 of Seven Elizabethan Lyrics, Op 12 (Quilter)
Come away, death  No 1 of Three Shakespeare Songs, Op 6 (Quilter)
Come, O come, my life's delight  First line to My life's delight, No 2 of Seven Elizabethan Lyrics, Op 12 (Quilter)
Come, o come, my life's delight  First line to My life's delight, No 2 of Seven Elizabethan Lyrics, Op 12 (Quilter)
Damask roses  No 3 of Seven Elizabethan Lyrics, Op 12 (Quilter)
Dark brown is the river, golden is the sand  First line to Where go the boats?, No 3 of Four Child Songs, Op 5 (Quilter)
Dark red roses in a honeyed wind swinging  First line to June (Quilter)
Die helle Sonne leuchtet  No 4 of Four Songs of Mirza Schaffy, Op 2 (Quilter)
Drink to me only with thine eyes (Anon/Quilter)
Fain would I change that note  First line to Fair house of joy, No 7 of Seven Elizabethan Lyrics, Op 12 (Quilter)
Fair house of joy  No 7 of Seven Elizabethan Lyrics, Op 12 (Quilter)
Fear no more the heat o' the sun  No 1 of Five Shakespeare Songs, Op 23 (Quilter)
Five Shakespeare Songs, Op 23 (Quilter)
Four Child Songs, Op 5 (Quilter)
Four Shakespeare Songs, Op 30 (Quilter)
Four Songs of Mirza Schaffy, Op 2 (Quilter)
Four Songs, Op 14 (Quilter)
From the brake the nightingale sings exulting to the rose  First line to A last year's rose, No 3 of Four Songs, Op 14 (Quilter)
Go, lovely rose, Op 24 No 3 (Quilter)
Hey, ho, the wind and the rain  No 5 of Five Shakespeare Songs, Op 23 (Quilter)
How should I your true love know?  No 3 of Four Shakespeare Songs, Op 30 (Quilter)
I woke before the morning, I was happy all the day  First line to A good child, No 1 of Four Child Songs, Op 5 (Quilter)
Ich fühle Deinen Odem  No 3 of Four Songs of Mirza Schaffy, Op 2 (Quilter)
In Scarlet Town, where I was born  First line to Barbara Allen (Anon/Quilter)
It was a lover and his lass  No 3 of Five Shakespeare Songs, Op 23 (Quilter)
June (Quilter)
Lady, when I behold the roses sprouting  First line to Damask roses, No 3 of Seven Elizabethan Lyrics, Op 12 (Quilter)
Love's Philosophy, Op 3 No 1 (Quilter)
Music, when soft voices die, Op 25 No 5 (Quilter)
My faint spirit is sitting in the light  First line to Arab Love Song, Op 25 No 4 (Quilter)
My life's delight  No 2 of Seven Elizabethan Lyrics, Op 12 (Quilter)
My tea is nearly ready and the sun has left the sky  First line to The lamplighter, No 2 of Four Child Songs, Op 5 (Quilter)
Neig' schön' Knospe Dich zu mir  No 1 of Four Songs of Mirza Schaffy, Op 2 (Quilter)
Now sleeps the crimson petal, Op 3 No 2 (Quilter)
O mistress mine  No 2 of Three Shakespeare Songs, Op 6 (Quilter)
Over the mountains (Anon/Quilter)
Seven Elizabethan Lyrics, Op 12 (Quilter)
Sigh no more, ladies  No 4 of Four Shakespeare Songs, Op 30 (Quilter)
Slow, slow, freah fount, keep time with my salt tears  First line to By a fountainside, No 6 of Seven Elizabethan Lyrics, Op 12 (Quilter)
Take, O take those lips away  No 4 of Five Shakespeare Songs, Op 23 (Quilter)
The faithless shepherdess  No 4 of Seven Elizabethan Lyrics, Op 12 (Quilter)
The fountains mingle with the river  First line to Love's Philosophy, Op 3 No 1 (Quilter)
The lamplighter  No 2 of Four Child Songs, Op 5 (Quilter)
The valley and the hill  No 2 (No 6) of Two September Songs, Op 18 (Quilter)
The yellow poplar leaves have strown  First line to Autumn Evening, No 1 of Four Songs, Op 14 (Quilter)
There be none of Beauty's daughters, Op 24 No 1 (Quilter)
Three Shakespeare Songs, Op 6 (Quilter)
Through the sunny garden  No 1 (No 5) of Two September Songs, Op 18 (Quilter)
Two September Songs, Op 18 (Quilter)
Und was die Sonne glüht  No 2 of Four Songs of Mirza Schaffy, Op 2 (Quilter)
Under the greenwood tree  No 2 of Five Shakespeare Songs, Op 23 (Quilter)
Weep you no more sad fountains  No 1 of Seven Elizabethan Lyrics, Op 12 (Quilter)
When daffodils begin to peer  No 2 of Four Shakespeare Songs, Op 30 (Quilter)
When that I was and a little tiny boy  First line to Hey, ho, the wind and the rain, No 5 of Five Shakespeare Songs, Op 23 (Quilter)
Where go the boats?  No 3 of Four Child Songs, Op 5 (Quilter)
While that the sun with his beams hot  First line to The faithless shepherdess, No 4 of Seven Elizabethan Lyrics, Op 12 (Quilter)
Who is Silvia?  No 1 of Four Shakespeare Songs, Op 30 (Quilter)
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