CD Review, BBC Radio 3 (broadcast 26/03/11)
“One of the delights of this recital – although there’s plenty of goushilla an’ me gumshilla, wallop it out my hero, there are also these wonderful songs, Irish because they are setting James Joyce, as well as by Frank Bridge, Edmund Pendleton … Ailish Tynan really sells them … [Solitary Hotel] is the aural equivalent of a painting by Edward Hopper, this vision of nothing happening and yet everything happening; and she makes it sound like a melodrama, but one which never really happened.
The pianist Iain Burnside plays beautifully throughout … this CD, although it just calls itself ‘An Irish Songbook’, has an extraordinary variety – it’s not what you might think it is!
There’s a wonderful juxtaposition about halfway through this recital of two [James] Joyce settings that couldn’t be more different – John Cage’s The Wonderful Widow of 18 Springs, which sets words from ‘Finnegan’s Wake’, really almost unaccompanied; and then in goes straight on to Herbert Howells’ Flood from ‘Poems Penyeach’, that has the most luxuriant and turbulent accompaniment. To me these two songs together epitomize the variety that we find in this recital.
I find Ailish Tynan’s singing totally compelling; her enunciation and the way she makes you hang on every word and be excited by every word, and there’s not a weak-link in her voice – it’s such an integrated soprano. Iain Burnside is with her at every move. It’s a single voice recital, but the voice never palls … she brings so many different colours and tones to what she sings … I really will play it over and over again which I would say of quite few CD recitals.”
Classic FM Magazine – Editor’s Choice, June 2011
The Music In imitation perhaps of countless Elizabethan songbooks, Tynan’s and Burnside’s compilation contains 23 numbers. Composers range from Britten to Cage though only two are actually Irish (Harty and Hughes). All are inspired by Irish folksong.
The Performance Soprano Tynan has a fresh, light, but powerful voice, which never distorts and uses vibrato sparingly. She relates symbiotically to Burnside whose dancing fingers push her to controlled abandon in Moeran’s ‘The Tinker’s Daughter’ and Hughes’ ‘Marry me Now’. She sings the several Britten settings with touching simplicity. There isn’t a finer melody on the disc than ‘At the mid hour of Night’, while Burnside makes perfect sense of the composer’s sometimes strained harmonies.
The Verdict The disc is full of interest. There are lovely, unknown tunes, seductively sung and hauntingly harmonised. It has pathos and wild joy in equal measure. An excellent recital.
Why You’ll Love This:
Traditional Values The beautiful, tearful tune ofthe traditional ‘The Lost Lover’ are exquisitely set by Moeran and Tynan’s wistful tone colour expresses the sadness perfectly. It’s the epitome of an excellent recording.
Green Blues Samuel Barber was proud of his Celtic roots and in ‘Solitary Hotel’ sets a New World bluesy backdrop to James Joyce’s stuttering verse. It evokes loneliness and adventure wonderfully.
Perfect Blend The haunting melodic beauty of ‘The Salley Gardens’, the moodiness of Britten’s eerie harmonisation which doesn’t spoil the tune but enhances it and the powerful sense of loss in Yeats’ poetry are a perfect blend of the three ingredients of song and a powerful conclusion to the disc.
Gramophone, September 2011
This is far from being a conventional Irish song collection, such as John McCormack might have offered in recording’s early days. Irish soprano Ailish Tynan, no doubt prompted by the ever-imaginative accompanist, lain Burnside, has devised a sequence of 23 songs that are mainly rarities. There are, for example, six folksong arrangements by Benjamin Britten, only one of which is at all familiar, his setting of Yeats’s popular poem "The Salley Gardens". Several are settings of tunes from the collection, Moore’s Irish Melodies, including "The Last Rose of Summer". Typically, they all have distinctive accompaniments, some of them little related to the melodies above.
Another theme of the collection is the work of James Joyce, not just from his collections of poems, Chamber Music and Pomes Penyeach, but extracts from his two exploratory novels, Ulysses ("Solitary Hotel", set by Samuel Barber) and Finnegans Wake ("The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs", set by John Cage to an accompaniment of knocking on the piano lid). Other Joyce settings, such as Herbert Howells’s "Flood" from Pomes Penyeach (with rushing accompaniment) and "Oh Men from the Fields" set by Herbert Hughes, are more conventional but always sensitive. Barber is represented by three songs, including the remarkable dedicated setting of "St Ita’s Vision", a medieval prayer translated into modern English by Seán Ó Faoláin. Other composers represented include some unjustly neglected, such as Thomas Dunhill, as well as EJ Moeran and Frank Bridge, making up a most attractive sequence.
Aylish Tynan’s bright soprano, very well controlled with clean attack on high notes, is perhaps too little varied in tone for sustained listening, a minor disadvantage. Predictably, Burnside is always a most sensitive accompanist, not least in some of Britten’s tricky piano-writing. A most distinctive disc, well recorded, and well worth investigating.