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Welcome to Hyperion Records, an independent British classical label devoted to presenting high-quality recordings of music of all styles and from all periods from the twelfth century to the twenty-first.
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Michael Head (1900-1976) was an English composer, singer, pianist, teacher, broadcaster and adjudicator whose obscurity has more to do with his unassuming personality than any lack of talent. From over 100 songs this selection offers some of the f ...» More
The Viper (1944–5), the second song of Six Poems of Ruth Pitter is one of Head’s most impressive, atmospheric and economical compositions. It is built around the slithering, chromatic piano fragment heard at the opening, and a parlando vocal line conjuring both the sultry heat of a summer’s day and the poet’s transfixed wonder at the ‘fallen angel’s comeliness’.
Light, stillness and peace lie on the broad sands,
On the salt-marshes the sleep of the afternoon.
The sky’s immaculate; the horizon stands
Steadfast, level and clear over the dune.
There are the voices of children, musical and thin
Not far, not near, there in the sandy hills;
As the light begins to wane, so the tide comes in,
The shallow creek at our feet silently fills:
And silently, like sleep to the weary mind,
Silently, like evening after day,
The big ship bears inshore with the inshore wind,
Changes her course, and comes on up through the bay,
Rolling along the fair deep channel she knows,
Surging along, right on top of the tide.
I can see the flowery wreath of foam at the bows,
The long bright wash streaming away from her side:
I can see the flashing gulls that follow her in,
Screaming and tumbling, like children wildly at play,
The sea-born crescent arising, pallid and thin,
The flat safe twilight shore shelving away.
Whether remembered or dreamed, read of or told,
So it has dwelt with me, so it shall dwell with me ever:
The brave ship coming home like a lamb to the fold,
Home with the tide into the mighty river.
Ruth Pitter (1897-1992) by permission of Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers Ltd
According to Head’s sister, The Estuary (1945), with words by Ruth Pitter (1897–1992), was her brother’s personal favourite amongst all his songs. The last in the cycle Six Poems of Ruth Pitter, it was dedicated to his publishers Leslie Boosey and Ralph Hawkes, and is one of his most extended and thematically developed songs. To reflect the words he uses the piano accompaniment in a highly effective and imaginative way, beginning tranquilly and building through the series of poetical images to the song’s climax at ‘The sea-born crescent arising’, before returning to the opening calm.