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Two Songs from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

author of text

Herbert Murrill (1909-1952) fits the quintessential image of a British organist-composer with another ‘proper job’ in education and broadcasting. Following his time at Oxford he held a succession of London organist posts, became a professor of composition at the RAM in his early twenties and rose to head of music at the BBC in 1936. His formation was conservative—but he strayed from a predictable course with commissions for incidental music for film documentaries and for the Group Theatre Company. It is now known that he served in the war effort as a sergeant at Bletchley Park where his musical skills were additionally put to good use.

The two settings: O mistress mine and Come away, death are from Twelfth Night, the former being words of Feste, the jester. The normality of O mistress mine echoes the conventions of Gerald Finzi. The final cadence has a remarkable eyebrowraiser for the upper sopranos, just when all seemed plain sailing, whereas the harmonic language of Come away, death comes as quite a surprise. Whilst Murrill shares a free, homophonic word-setting with many of this era, where the speech-flow has an effortless precedence over the tyrannies of conventional bar-groupings, the slightly tortuous chromatic lines tend towards the multi-tonal. Moments such as a somewhat stunning ‘Weep’ at the close of Come away, death possess a Gallic richesse and there is a hint of a Walton-esque blues flavour in this example.

from notes by Greg Murray © 2016


Music of the Spheres
Studio Master: SIGCD904Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


No 1: O mistress mine
Track 1 on SIGCD904 [1'24] Download only
No 2: Come away, death
Track 2 on SIGCD904 [3'30] Download only

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