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Ralph Vaughan Williams: Purer than Pearl

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Ralph Vaughan Williams: Purer than Pearl
Ralph Vaughan Williams: Purer than Pearl Ralph Vaughan Williams: Purer than Pearl


Albion Records presents its most beautiful recording to date: songs and duets by Vaughan Williams for voices, piano and violin, recorded at Potton Hall in 2016. Including fifteen world première tracks, the outstanding performers are Mary Bevan, Jennifer Johnston, Nicky Spence and Johnny Herford, with William Vann, piano and Thomas Gould, violin.

This recording is of songs and duets dating from 1891 to 1935, including an arrangement of Linden Lea for four voices and piano. We conclude with eight songs newly arranged by Adrian Williams from Vaughan Williams's opera The Poisoned Kiss.

William Vann took up a choral scholarship at Cambridge and studied piano accompaniment at the Royal Academy of Music. Mary Bevan trained at the Royal Academy of Music. She also features on ALBCD012 Vaughan Williams: The Garden of Proserpine. Jennifer Johnstone is a former BBC New Generation Artist, and a graduate of Cambridge University and the Royal College of Music. She also features on ALBCD028 Vaughan Williams: Discoveries. Nicky Spence trained at the Guildhall School and the National Opera Studio. Johnny Herford graduated with distinction from the Royal Academy of Music and won the Song Prize at the Kathleen Ferrier Competition, and the Jean Meikle Duo Prize with pianist William Vann at the Wigmore Hall International Song Competition. Thomas Gould is leader of Britten Sinfonia. His solo albums include Beethoven's Violin Concerto and Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending with Sinfonietta Riga.


One delight follows another. Six of the songs are recorded here for the first time. To begin the program Spence shines brightly in 'Summum Bonum'. Bevan, Gould, and Vann give a gorgeous performance of 'How the Cold Wind Doth Blow' (1912), the longest song of the program. Bevan and Johnston are warm and tender in 'Dirge for Fidele'. Spence and Herford join effectively in an inventive setting of 'It Was a Lover and His Lass' with its countermelodies, part-crossing, and rhythmic playfulness. Spence and Gould perform two folk songs expressively. The performances of this rich treasury of vocal gems are consistently excellent. --R Moore, American Record Guide, March 2017

There's a great deal of delightful music on this CD, much of it little known. The performances are exemplary. All four singers are on top of their respective games and the contributions of pianist William Vann and violinist Thomas Gould also give great pleasure. This is a lovely disc that no lover of Vaughan Williams' music should miss. --John Quinn, Musicweb International

Charm is present in abundance in the gorgeous performances of the four young vocalists, in the throat-catching exquisiteness of violinist Thomas Gould's several contributions to the program, and in the supportive partnership of piano accompanist William Vann, who also serves as music director. Nicky Spence stands out, even in this brilliant company, as an artist of extraordinary ability. His singing of the Two English Folk-Songs would be enough in itself to justify the purchase of this disc. But there is so much to treasure in this release that I am sure any admirer of the composer will find many reasons to be pleased with its procuring. --Ronald E. Grames, Fanfare Magazine, (Mar/Apr 2017)

Vocal and instrumental contributions alike leave nothing to be desired - and a special word of praise for William Vann's deft pianism. Exemplary production values bolster the appeal of this Albion release, which can be cordially recommended to all RVW acolytes. --Andrew Achenbach, Gramophone Magazine, November 2016


  1. Name
  2. Vaughan Williams: Summum Bonum
  3. Vaughan Williams: Crossing the Bar
  4. Vaughan Williams: Wishes
  5. Vaughan Williams: Spinning Song
  6. Vaughan Williams: Lollipop's Song
  7. Vaughan Williams: Rumpelstiltskin's Song
  8. Vaughan Williams: Linden Lea
  9. Vaughan Williams: The Last Invocation
  10. Vaughan Williams: The Love-song of the Birds
  11. Vaughan Williams: How cold the wind doth blow
  12. Vaughan Williams: Dirge for Fidele
  13. Vaughan Williams: It was a Lover and his Lass
  14. Vaughan Williams: Searching for Lambs
  15. Vaughan Williams: The Lawyer
  16. Vaughan Williams: Secret are the Sounds of Night
  17. Vaughan Williams: It's Really Time
  18. Vaughan Williams: Blue Larkspur in a Garden
  19. Vaughan Williams: When I was Young
  20. Vaughan Williams: Dear Love
  21. Vaughan Williams: The Enchanted Air
  22. Vaughan Williams: Love Breaks all Rules
  23. Vaughan Williams: How Strange it is
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