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Track(s) taken from CDH55243

Three Shakespeare Songs

author of text
No 1: The Tempest I:2; No 2: The Tempest IV:1; No 3: A Midsummer Night's Dream II:1

Laudibus, Michael Brewer (conductor)
Recording details: July 1998
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: April 1999
Total duration: 5 minutes 51 seconds

Other recordings available for download

Tenebrae, Nigel Short (conductor)
Holst Singers, Stephen Layton (conductor)
The Cambridge Singers, John Rutter (conductor)


'This is a delightfully nostalgic trip through English part-singing from the first half of the 20th century. The programme is deftly chosen and Laudibus give heart-warming accounts' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Bright, youthful choir timbre, affectionate yet staunch renditions, and superior sound from the Hyperion engineers. Recommend you buy on sight. Repeat, buy on sight' (American Record Guide)
Ralph Vaughan Williams composed these choral essays, somewhat reluctantly, as test pieces for the 1951 National Competition Festival of the British Federation of Music. Since then they have become a firm favourite as they combine a world of impressionism (from his experience with Ravel) with a journey through enharmonic wonders, and tongue-tying tricks of choral enunciation.

Full fathom five is a play on the sound of tolling bells, in multi-divided upper voices while the basses sing an undulating melody beneath. There is a little quirk though. If one takes the first four notes of either ‘O taste and see’ or the hymn tune: ‘For all the saints’ by the same composer, and sings them simultaneously, the result is the cluster-chord on ‘Ding’. The tenors, on ‘Dong’, then provide that clanging dissonance which employs the same interval inherent in bell overtones. A central, contrasting section is classic Vaughan Williams: parallel triads which transform, punning beautifully with the text, into the strangest superimposition of chords on ‘strange’.

The cloud-capp’d towers is a masterful test-piece for choirs to prove their collective tuning skills, but has also become a favourite for its ravishing colour-changes reminiscent of progressions in his 6th Symphony.

Over hill, over dale is in essence a Scherzo, with some similarities to the choral-scherzo (third movement) of his Sea Symphony. The keen listener might recognise the same interval-span on ‘hill’ and ‘dale’ as was used in the tolling-bell-effect in the first song.

from notes by Greg Murray © 2016

Other albums featuring this work

Music of the Spheres
Studio Master: SIGCD904Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
There is sweet music
CSCD505Download only
Vaughan Williams: Over hill, over dale
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