Listeners to BBC Radio 4 will already be familiar with Carole Boyd (aka Lynda Snell in The Archers) and Zeb Soanes (newsreader and announcer on Today, PM, The News Quiz and the Shipping Forecast), the reciters on this new recording of Walton’s evergreen, giddily inventive Façade. Their alliance with the customarily attentive John Wilson and his razor-sharp seven-piece ensemble is infectiously enjoyable. Sitwell’s modernist verse is delivered with collaborative flair, impeccable enunciation and considerable strength of personality. Characters such as Sir Joshua Jebb in ‘En famille’ and Mr Wagg in ‘Polka’ spring to life in irresistible fashion, and what irrepressible relish Boyd and Soanes bring to those word-torrents in ‘Hornpipe’, ‘Tango-Pasodoble’ and ‘Tarantella’, as well as the witty dialogue of ‘Mariner Man’, ‘Country Dance’, ‘Scottish Rhapsody’ and ‘Fox-Trot (Old Sir Faulk)’. At the same time they are no less appreciative of the sultry languor of ‘A Man from a Far Countree’, bittersweet nostalgia of ‘By the Lake’ and hallucinatory haze of ‘Four in the Morning’. Other stand-outs include a gently twirling ‘Popular Song’, seductive ‘Through Gilded Trellises’, gleeful ‘Valse’, deliciously drowsy ‘Lullaby for Jumbo’ and rollicking ‘Sir Beelzebub’.
As a fill-up, we get a 27-minute interview (first broadcast on the BBC Home Service on November 25, 1955) with the inimitable Dame Edith herself. It’s a wholly fascinating document – and whatever you do, of course, don’t deprive yourself of experiencing her classic 1954 Decca recording (now on Australian Eloquence) with Peter Pears and Anthony Collins (the terrifying ‘Black Mrs Behemoth’ is alone worth the price of admission).
Admirably produced – and entirely funded – by the indefatigable Andrew Keener, this entertaining album from Orchid Classics earns a hearty welcome.