The latest release from the admirable English Music Festival’s in-house label is a recital of songs and chamber music by Gurney, Warlock and Butterworth. And whatever your feelings about Butterworth’s songs being plucked out of their published contexts like this, it does add up to a thoughtful and satisfying programme, discreetly drawing out the music’s shared strands of memory, folklore and loss.
Four pieces are billed here as ‘world premiere recordings’. The two Warlock songs aren’t that exactly; these are reconstructions (by John Mitchell) of Warlock’s own lost arrangements for string quartet and voice. Butterworth’s Suite, however, is the real thing. The Bridge Quartet’s unaffected playing and oaky, wide-grained tone fits it beautifully, and serves Butterworth’s folk-flavoured inspirations infinitely better than the misguided recent account on BIS with full string orchestra (8/16). The Bridges unfold Gurney’s poignant, rather discursive Adagio for string quartet with quiet tenderness: it is hard to believe that neither of these pieces has been recorded in its original form until now.
The naturalness of the quartet’s sound is an attractive feature of Gurney’s Ludlow and Teme, as is Michael Dussek’s warm and responsive piano-playing. Charles Daniels, though, isn’t always easy on the ear; his is what you might call an Oxbridge-sounding tenor, with a tendency to tighten and then flare in the top register. He doesn’t really efface memories of Adrian Thompson in this repertoire on Hyperion, though EM’s recorded sound is more lucid. Those four rarities, however, give ample reason to enjoy this disc.