Hyperion Records

Bredon Hill and other songs
First line:
In summertime on Bredon
composer
1912
author of text
A Shropshire Lad

Recordings
'Vaughan Williams: Songs of Travel; Butterworth: A Shropshire Lad' (CDA67378)
Vaughan Williams: Songs of Travel; Butterworth: A Shropshire Lad
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67378 
'Housman: A Shropshire Lad' (CDD22044)
Housman: A Shropshire Lad
Buy by post £10.50 CDD22044  2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1)  
Details
No 1: Bredon Hill  In summertime on Bredon
No 2: Oh fair enough are sky and plain
No 3: When the lad for longing sighs
No 4: On the idle hill of summer
No 5: With rue my heart is laden

Bredon Hill and other songs
‘Bredon Hill’ and other songs was published the year after Butterworth’s first group of Housman songs in 1912. Musical images of bells, from joyous pealing to funereal tolling, permeate and unify the setting of ‘Bredon Hill’. The clangour is set in motion by the oscillating chords at the beginning, and the scales in the accompaniment to the vocal line which for the first four verses radiate happiness. However, at the beginning of the fifth verse the change is stark and wintry, the doleful chords like a single bell tolling the coffin to the grave. At the end, there is a recall of the main bell motif, but now tainted with the experience of death and loss. Again it is Butterworth’s simplicity that is the principal means of the effectiveness of ‘Oh fair enough are sky and plain’, combined with apposite musical images to mirror the words of the poem, as, for instance, in the descending phrase at ‘As I stand gazing down’.

‘When the lad for longing sighs’ is a further example of how folksong was totally absorbed into Butterworth’s voice, for it could easily be taken as a traditional tune. The second verse has an accompaniment in thirds, a Butterworth characteristic, and the final cadence is unresolved as if posing a question. ‘On the idle hill of summer’ is the most ambitious of the songs in this group, with the syncopated added-sixth chords, heightened by the occasional rumble of an A pedal point, suggestive of both the languid heat of a summer’s day, as well as the sound of distant drumming. For the final verse the music is urgent and animated with triplets evoking the bugles of the text and rising to the climax of the song at ‘Woman bore me, I will rise’. In its simplicity of gesture, its nostalgia and melancholy, ‘With rue my heart is laden’ seems to sum up the mood of Butterworth’s art. Its opening phrase is quoted at end of the Shropshire Lad rhapsody and at the very end there is a final allusion to the opening of ‘Loveliest of trees’, as if the cycles of life, love and death have come full circle and are poised to begin again.

from notes by Andrew Burn 2003

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