Elsie Suddaby (1893-1980) - Volume 2

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Elsie Suddaby (1893-1980) - Volume 2

  • (The) Lass with the Delicate Air
  • On thy banks, gentle Stour
  • Cantata No. 201, 'Geschwinde, ihr wirbeln den Wind, Aria: Patron, Patron
  • Cantata No. 70, 'Wachet, betet, seid bereit alleze, Aria: Lass der Spötter Zungen schmähen (S)
  • Semele, O sleep, why dost thou leave me?
  • Messiah, ~, He shall feed his flock
  • Messiah, How beautiful are the feet
  • Messiah, I know that my Redeemer liveth
  • Ah! how pleasant 'tis to love
  • Myrthen, No. 3, Der Nussbaum (wds. Mosen)
  • Frühlingsglaube
  • Mass No. 2, Benedictus
  • Wiegenlied
  • Scenes from 'The Song of Hiawatha', Hiawatha's Departure (1900), Spring had come with all its splendour
  • Scenes from 'The Song of Hiawatha', The Death of Minnehaha (1898), And he rushed into the wigwam
  • Spring
  • Shepherd, thy demeanour vary
  • Love's Garden of Roses
  • Loch Lomond
  • Blackbird's song
  • (2) Danish Songs
  • Symphony No. 9, 'Choral', Presto Allegro assai, Ode to Joy
  • (6) Original Canzonettas, Book 1, Pastoral Song

Vaughan Williams showed a fine appreciation of Elsie Suddaby’s qualities when he assigned to her the most delicate, and most nearly Elizabethan, passage in his Serenade to Music. Yet my own memory of her is that it was by no means such a slender, ‘little-miss’ voice as records (including that one) had led me to expect. Listeners to this second disc devoted to her recordings (and indeed to its predecessor, 4/95) might like to bear this in mind: there are times here when she sounds almost the very archetype, if not the Anna Russell-caricature, of the foreigner’s idea of the English soprano as a species (“she’s very s-weet”) and that does not do justice to the strength, not of volume but of character and projection, which her singing embodied.
The recordings themselves differ in their representation of her tone quality. In some it is almost needly-sharp, in others embarrassingly girlish. As in Vol. 1, it is not until the wartime recordings on Decca that the mellower and more faithful sound is caught. Loch Lomond (1942) is in some ways best of all. Love’s Garden of Roses, from 1930, is also attractive, though this is not the kind of music one associates with her: it brought to mind an unlikely comparison with Lucrezia Bori who would also sing waltz songs with a voice that was girlish and apparently slight yet had within it unsuspected resources.
We must be grateful to the enthusiasts who have produced these two volumes, but, if only in the interests of future additions to the series, a plea must be entered for more thorough documentation. Though reviling tongues assail us. Bach won’t do. Faith in Spring and Almond Tree need identifying. To heart ceasing. Purcell is a real puzzle. It should of course be “heart-easing” as in “heart-easing mirth” (Milton). But that gets us not very much further. What composition is this? Part-answer: not so much Purcell as Walford Davies. And who, we may ask, is the strikingly fine contralto who sings a few phrases after Baillie and Suddaby? Answer: Astra Desmond. Now, I did not have to look far to find these answers (no further than the HMV catalogue of 1939). But it is not unreasonable to expect the producers of such a record as this to look at least that far, if not a little further.'

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