Songs my father taught me
We’ve all known‚ and perhaps been guilty of‚ the musical snobbery which purports to have no time for such things – and we’ve probably recognised the hypocrisy of it when one of them is brought out at encoretime at (say) the Wigmore Hall by singers such as Felicity Lott or Thomas Allen and been so warmly applauded by an audience that has obviously been genuinely moved. I suppose legitimate questions do remain – for instance‚ how much it is the song that has moved us‚ and how much the associations evoked by it. There’s also the feeling that encoretime is right‚ but that a whole group‚ let alone a whole programme‚ might cloy.
Yet a whole programme is what we have here‚ and‚ speaking personally‚ I found no trouble at all in listening to it continuously from start to finish. That no doubt has also much to do with the great gifts and skills of both artists. The accompaniments are deliberately written so as to be readily playable by amateur pianists‚ but the sensitive touch of a sympathetic professional makes all the difference. Those righthand octaves and lefthand chords that cause so much wincing in cultured company are freed of all frontparlour staleness as Malcolm Martineau plays them‚ and in each song the gift for melody and the shapely phrase is made gracefully clear.
Sir Thomas himself is the ideal singer and advocate. The beauty of his tone and its marvellous evenness of production seem to tell of those times – the days when a ‘musical evening’ would usually bring forth somebody‚ most often a baritone‚ who‚ not half as good in degree‚ was comparable in kind‚ a ‘real’ singer (people would say)‚ one whose singing‚ without sentimentality or exhibitionism‚ would bring into the home a genuine awareness of beauty‚ maybe the most genuine experience of music’s pleasures that many of those present would ever know.
The selection is wellmade. Andrew Lamb digs out all sorts of nuggets for his notes‚ though he doesn’t tell us‚ incidentally‚ what happened to (or accounted for) the third verse of Smilin’ through‚ something about ‘if ever I’m left in this world all alone’. Mind‚ I can quite happily do without it.