The first half of the 20th century was a sort of golden age for British art song unparalleled since the days of Purcell and Blow. There are works by, inter alia, Finzi, Britten Vaughan Williams and Butterworth that are still staples of the repertoire. After the second world war though it starts to tail off and I’m hard pressed to think of songs/song cycles from the last two or three decades of the century that have become at all popular. In fact, it seems to me, the most popular art song like works from this period are stage works which are based on a cycle of songs like Maxwell Davies’ Miss. Donnithorne’s Maggot. I was interested then to come across a 1999 CD of (actual) songs for voice and piano written since 1970. The CD is Peripheral Visions by soprano Alison Grant and pianist Katherine Durran.
The second set of reGENERATION concerts of the Topronto Summer Music Festival took place yesterday at Walter Hall. The song portion, unusually, consisted of 100% English language rep, mirroring the Griffey/Jones recital earlier in the wee. The first concert kicked off with tenor Eric Laine and pianist Scott Downing with five songs from Finzi’s setting of Thomas Hardy; A Young Man’s Exhortation. It was good. Laine has a nice sense of style and very good diction. The high notes are there though sometimes, especially at the end of a line, they don’t sound 100% secure. There was some quite delicate accompaniment from Downing too.