Ian Venables: The Song of the Severn


Ian Venables’ reputation as ‘one of the finest song composers of his generation’ (BBC Music Magazine) finds voice in this disc of premiere recordings of two of his substantial song cycles.

International baritone, Roderick Williams is joined by the Carducci String Quartet and pianist Graham J Lloyd in The Song of the Severn, a celebration of Venables’ home county of Worcestershire and The Pine Boughs Past Music, a poignant tribute to the poetic talents of Ivor Gurney.

Other songs include those with solo piano and arrangements by Graham J Lloyd, for string quartet. Each work highlights Venables’ gift of being able to take poetry to a higher level of appreciation and at the same time create works of lasting beauty.

BBC Music Magazine  |  Vocal Release of the Month


What people are saying

"Sharply memorable music of bewitching lyricism, idiomatic grace and rapt instinct." Gramophone, October 2015

"… settings of Hardy’s A Kiss, Tennyson’s Break, break ,break, and Gurney’s Soft Rain – are superb…” “They find in Roderick Williams a deeply sympathetic interpreter, who lavished as much attention on the words as the notes. Graham J Lloyd is the technically adroit, musically sensitive accompanist, while the Carducci String Quartet – involved in several individual songs, as well as the above – mentioned cycle – are exemplary in their interpretations…” VOCAL DISC OF THE MONTH, BBC Music Magazine

"If you are interested in where the English Art Song has gone recently, then this is a disc for you to explore." Planet Hugill, September 2015

"Ian Venables is a significant contributor to the English song repertoire and tradition. I would urge all those who appreciate English songs to investigate this excellent CD." Music Web International, August 2015  

"No lover of the early-20th century English art song… tradition should fail to investigate this notable issue…” Gramophone

Release date:29th Jun 2015
Order code:SIGCD424
Barcode: 635212042427

" …With The Song of the Severn, … Venables has penned an immortal work of genius. These five songs … are absolutely stunning in their poignant beauty, their profoundly noble and moving sense of tragedy and desolation that never turns sentimental or lachrymose, and their perfect union of text and music to a level that rivals Schubert and Mahler…” 

Fanfare Magazine

 “… sharply memorable music of bewitching lyricism, idiomatic grace and rapt instinct…”

Andrew Achenbach writing in this month’s Gramophone said…”we also get a sequence of nine exquisite songs… each of which demonstrate Venables’s unfailing ability to illuminate the text, indisputable flair for melody and impeccable craftsmanship…”
“No lover of the early-20th century English art song… tradition should fail to investigate this notable issue…”

Gramophone Magazine

Ian Venables’ music is unashamedly rooted in the English pastoral tradition. With their gently arcing diatonic melodies, spiced by the occasional passing dissonance, and meticulous attention to the detail of every word of the English poetry they use, the most obvious model for Venables’ songs seems to be Gerald Finzi. But there are cadences, too, of composers from earlier in the 20th century, such as George Butterworth and, especially, Ivor Gurney, on whom Venables has done a great deal of valuable research.

The two song cycles that Roderick Williams sings with his usual exemplary musicality and tact show how convincing Venables’ occupation of that world can be – The Song of the Severn, for baritone, string quartet and piano groups together settings of Masefield, Drinkwater, Housman and Warner on the history and landscape of Worcestershire, while The Pine Boughs Past Music is a touching memorial to Gurney, using three of his poems as well as well an epitaph for him by Leonard Clark. Anachronistic though Venables’ music sometimes seems to be, as if yearning for a world that cannot be recovered, it can be powerfully convincing.

The Guardian, Andrew Clements

  1. The Song of the Severn, Op. 43: I. On Malvern Hill (Masefield) – Ian Venables – 5.27
  2. The Song of the Severn, Op. 43: II. How clear, how lovely bright – Ian Venables – 5.39
  3. The Song of the Severn, Op. 43: III. Elgar’s Music – Ian Venables – 3.40
  4. The Song of the Severn, Op. 43: IV. Laugh and be Merry – Ian Venables – 2.45
  5. The Song of the Severn, Op. 43: V. The River in December – Ian Venables – 5.10
  6. Pine Boughs Past Music, Op. 39: I. My heart makes songs on lonely roads – Ian Venables – 4.24
  7. Pine Boughs Past Music, Op. 39: II. Soft Rain – Ian Venables – 3.49
  8. Pine Boughs Past Music, Op. 39: III. The Wind – Ian Venables – 4.15
  9. Pine Boughs Past Music, Op. 39: IV. In Memoriam: Ivor Gurney – Ian Venables – 6.00
  10. Flying Crooked, Op. 28, No. 1 – Ian Venables – 1.11
  11. A Kiss, Op. 15 – Ian Venables – 4.32
  12. Evening Bells, Op. 31, No. 3 – Ian Venables – 2.16
  13. The Night has a Thousand Eyes, Op. 41, No. 2 – Ian Venables – 3.24
  14. Break, break, break Op. 33, No. 5 – Ian Venables – 2.46
  15. Midnight Lamentation, Op. 6 – Ian Venables – 4.09
  16. The Hippo, Op. 33, No. 6 – Ian Venables – 1.34
  17. The Invitation to the Gondola, Op. 22, No. 3 – Ian Venables – 4.49
  18. Frutti di Mare, Op. 41, No. 1 – Ian Venables – 4.14