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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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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 (L’Ouvrier 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.
The night lay o’er the city, The rain and winds made moan; The worker in his garrett With nought of earth to praise him, No earthly love to bless; But there was one in Heaven Still cheered his loneliness. Courage, true heart, courage! She waiteth beyond the sun To welcome thee to Heaven When thy brave work is done.
Far on the hills of Heaven An angel watching leant With glad eyes earthward bent, And whispered thro’ the quiet, ‘I come to thee anon. Toil on, O my beloved, Thy work is well nigh done.’ A few more nights of labour, Of struggling bravely on, And then God sent the angel. The worker’s work was done.
Cold lay the lifeless body Within that cheerless place, A smile of peaceful trusting Upon the poor thin face. But from the lonely garrett, Unseen of mortal sight, Two angels happy-hearted Passed into Heaven that night! Two angels happy-hearted Passed into Heaven that night!
Frederic Edward Weatherly (1848-1929)
Track-specific metadata for CDA66801/2 disc 2 track 13