Songs My Father Taught Me
Sir Thomas Allen (baritone)
Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Reviewed by: David Wordsworth
Reviewed: April 2002
CD No: HYPERION CDA67290
An hour and more of unashamed sentiment from one of our finest singers with this programme of Edwardian/Victorian ballads, twenty-five in total. Sir Thomas touchingly relates in his booklet note how he remembers his father performing these songs with local singers – a sort of reassurance and comfort much needed after the Second World War. Accordingly the disc is dedicated – from Thomas Allen to Thomas Allen.
No doubt many of the classics will bring back memories for those of, shall we say, a certain age. Some of the more famous ballads still get an occasional airing – Passing By written by the pseudonymed Edward C Purcell! Perhaps he thought it would do him some good – it didn’t – this is the only song of his that is remembered. Sullivan’s The Lost Chord – apparently sung by Caruso – and A Brown Bird Singing, music by Haydn Wood, words by ’Royden Barrie’ who, just to confuse matters, is Rodney Richard Bennett, father of composer Richard Rodney Bennett.
There are also some charming folk-songs, including a particularly beautiful arrangement by Phyllis Tate of The lark in the clear air; and there’s the inevitable Ivor Novello – “Keep the home fires burning” (actually called Till the boys come home), which while no doubt stirring in its time is now dated beyond belief.
In the hands of lesser artists than Thomas Allen and the excellent Malcolm Martineau all this might just tip the balance and make this selection rather cloying and unpalatable. If not recommended for one sitting, all the songs are treated with the same respect as if they where by Schubert or Schumann and wonderfully sung – every word clear, every phrase caressed and perfectly placed.
This is not just a CD for ’older’ listeners, but a wonderful example of how to put a song across in the most convincing and sincere way.