Among the scores of forgotten English-song composers it is heartening that the music of Cecil Armstrong Gibbs has been the subject of a revival in the last fifteen years or so. His songs are now back in print; and so they should be—he was probably, after all, the best and most faithful of all composers of Walter de la Mare (1873–1956), although Herbert Howells devotees may disagree. That fine poet, world famous in his time, and a member of the Order of Merit, has also suffered from neglect in recent years; it would be fitting for the music of Gibbs to help the public back to an appreciation of de la Mare’s strengths as a poet for music. A Song of Shadows
(1917) comes from the closing pages of de la Mare’s once-famous Peacock Pie
(1913), one of the greatest of all books of children’s poetry and a source of countless musical settings. With an accompaniment of incessant yet gentle semiquavers, and various excursions into distant tonalities, Gibbs achieves here an almost Fauréan sense of repose (as in that composer’s En sourdine
). For decades the main source of inspiration for British composers had been German music—and the works of Brahms and Wagner in particular. During the First World War, and in the following decades, the value of the German musical stock-exchange fell dramatically, in Britain at least, and French masters (as well as Russians and Americans) wielded an ever stronger influence on this side of the Channel.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2012