Judged by the standards of the English composers of the time, even Gounod’s rather populist works shine with daring individuality. His setting of The Worker
in Lemoine) is a ballad in the English tradition, but superior to almost all the home-grown products of the day. The poet is the young Fred E Weatherly who was to go on to write the lyrics of over 1500 songs including Danny Boy
(1913) and Roses of Picardy
(1916). In the French edition the work is subtitled ‘Scène lyrique’ and, untypically for Gounod’s English songs, Weatherly’s name is acknowledged alongside that of the translator. Gounod later orchestrated the song and one can well imagine its drawing-room popularity. It is as skilful in capturing the spirit of Victorian English music as Biondina is in imitating the Italian manner. The melodrama, the religiosity, the text’s almost Dickensian concern with the concept of the saintly and exploited working class (saluted at the safe distance of the middle-class parlour song recital)—all these things make this work a genuine English stylization.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1993