Come to Me in My Dreams:120 Years of Song from the Royal College of Music
A truly lovely programme, this, as generous as it is absorbing, devoted to songs spanning some 120 years by composers associated with the Royal College of Music. Particularly welcome is the first recording of two numbers that Britten decided not to incorporate into his 1947 A Charm of Lullabies. Largely completed in sketch form, both ‘A Sweet Lullaby’ and ‘Somnus, the humble god’ required Colin Matthews’s editorial expertise and will be included in an appendix when the cycle is next published. The main work itself comes off memorably, as do three glorious offerings by Britten’s beloved mentor, Frank Bridge, not least the deeply moving 1925 setting of ‘Journey’s End’.
Another highlight comprises a marvellous sequence of three songs by Ivor Gurney, and I was also much taken with John Ireland’s passionate ‘Earth’s Call’ from 1918 (which exhibits a pantheistic wonder and poetic reach that are genuinely haunting), as well as Arthur Somervell’s achingly poignant response to Housman’s ‘Into my heart an air that kills’. Intriguing, too, that Rebecca Clarke’s 1912 setting of Yeats’s ‘The Cloths of Heaven’ should bear a dedication to the tenor Gervase Elwes, who also gave the premiere that same year of Thomas Dunhill’s scarcely less bewitching treatment of the same poem (track 4). Elsewhere, favourites such as Parry’s ‘Weep you no more, sad fountains’ (from Set 4 of the English Lyrics) and Stanford’s ‘A soft day’ (from his 1913 Sheaf of Songs from Leinster) emerge with newly minted freshness, and there’s a touching postscript in the shape of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s ‘Farewell’, which towards the close seems to echo ‘Full fathom five’ from Tippett’s Songs for Ariel (1962) preceding it here.
Prospective purchasers can rest assured that Sarah Connolly is at her characteristically supple, golden-toned and intelligent best throughout, and she enjoys impeccable support from Joseph Middleton. Chandos’s sound and presentation are likewise beyond reproach, and it all adds up to a disc that I have not the slightest doubt will give enormous satisfaction for many moons to come.