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Track(s) taken from CDA67261/2

Five Songs to poems by Thomas Hardy

author of text

Christopher Maltman (baritone), Graham Johnson (piano)
Recording details: September 1998
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Arthur Johnson
Engineered by Mike Clements & Mike Hatch
Release date: June 1999
Total duration: 10 minutes 26 seconds


'Perhaps these discs will at last bring the best of his songs back into live recital' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Three excellent young British singers share the treasures recorded here under the sage aegis of Graham Johnson. Lisa Milne's bright, keen soprano is lovely, John Mark Ainsley is a model of style and verbal clarity and young Christopher Maltman continues to show the promise that won him the Cardiff Lieder Prize in 1997' (The Sunday Times)

'A welcome, long overdue event. Excellent introduction to unduly neglected repertoire' (Classic CD)

'Ireland was a songsmith to rival the finest this country has produced, and Hyperion's generous anthology will hopefully encourage others to explore this rewarding and rapt repertoire' (Hi-Fi News)
The Five Poems of Thomas Hardy, from 1926, are immediately more chromatic than the previous set, more intensely personal, somehow presaging the anguish and embarrassment that must have surrounded Ireland's brief excursion into marriage the following year. Many have seen this cycle as the summit of Ireland's achievement as a songwriter—dense, fibrous, deeply serious, passionate—and it is hard to argue against that, whatever one's personal favourites among the composer's songs.

Unlike the previous set of Hardy songs, this sequence is presented as a genuine cycle, on the 'theme' of love remaining always painfully, tantalisingly out of reach. The first song, Beckon to me to come, is an unspoken plea for a sign from the intended lover that feelings might possibly be reciprocated. In my sage moments muses on the idea of setting hope of that love aside, but builds to a extraordinarily passionate call of 'Come!'. It was what you bore with you, woman is the emotional hinge-point of the cycle—firstly a hushed, breathless expression of the lover's appeal, followed by the bitter realisation that she is unaware, unresponsive. The same idea is carried through into The tragedy of that moment, expressing the pain of being in the same room as the person who has not returned love. The mood of the song recalls some of Gerald Finzi's darker settings of Thomas Hardy. The cycle nonetheless ends with the love being transfigured, in Dear, think not that they will forget you. Excitement builds swiftly from a whisper to a shattering climactic moment on 'I will build up a temple'—a shrine to the woman who has rejected him. If love cannot be shared, then the temple will make men marvel at her charms. Ireland's setting ends in deep (literally, in keyboard terms) introspection after we hear that though men may indeed wonder, none will ever know who constructed the temple.

from notes by Andrew Green © 1999

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