'My True Love Hath my Heart'
Sarah Connolly, with her clear, fresh mezzo, here tackles a delightful, wide-ranging sequence of English songs, with Roger Quilter the only important name missing. The opening group features three of Benjamin Britten’s distinctive folksong settings as well as the ‘Corpus Christi Carol’ drawn from Britten’s early Nativity cantata, A Boy was Born. The Howells songs come in two brief groups, including two of the composer’s most moving, ‘King David’ and ‘Come sing and dance’, ending in ecstatic alleluias, movingly performed by Connolly.
The three songs in the John Ireland group include the setting of Sir Philip Sidney that gives the whole disc its title, ‘My true love hath my heart’, with its heartfelt climax. Ireland’s ‘Tryst’, to words by the decadent poet AJ Symons, is then slow and intense. So is the Ivor Gurney setting of John Fletcher’s ‘Sleep’, with his ‘By a Bierside’ (a Masefield setting) bringing a powerful close. This was a song written during wartime in 1915, which only came to light to be published in 1939, long after Gurney’s tragic death in a mental hospital.
The first of the second group of Howells songs, ‘Gavotte’, brings elegant neo-classical writing, leading to the Michael Head songs, folk-like in ‘Cotswold Love’, and to Peter Warlock’s ‘The First Mercy’. The final set of four songs by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett is entitled A History of the Thé dansant and brings a total contrast in the foxtrot and tango rhythms typical of the composer, charming cabaret numbers that the composer himself would regularly accompany. In all these Sarah Connolly sings immaculately, with impeccably sensitive accompaniment from Malcolm Martineau, in sound both clear and perfectly balanced.