In these marvellous songs of his old age, the vocal line ranges from the extreme simplicity of ‘Infant Joy’ to the stern declamation of ‘Cruelty’, and embraces the formal tune of ‘The Lamb’ (a poem which Vaughan Williams once declared he hated!) as readily as the strophic variations of ‘The Divine Image’. Though the voice and oboe never get in each other’s way, three of the songs dispense with the oboe altogether. In the remainder it acts sometimes in an illustrative capacity (as in ‘The Piper’), but more often as a discreet support that provides a magical pivot for the implied harmonies as they change in deference to the poet’s words. Composed nearly fifty years after On Wenlock Edge, Vaughan Williams’s Blake settings are a moving swansong to the achievements of a remarkable creative life.
from notes by Michael Hurd © 2000