A Treasury of English Song

A Treasury of English Song
Peter Pears
Catalogue No.

These recordings, made over the space of a decade from March 1954 to December 1964, capture Peter Pears in the high summer of his career and at the peak his powers, a period roughly framed by some of the highlights of his partnership with Benjamin Britten: the creation of the character of Peter Quint in the composer’s The Turn of the Screw in Venice in September 1954 and the euphoric response to the first performance in 1962 of the War Requiem, one of the great events of post-war English musical life. The title ‘An Anthology of English Song’ was chosen by Decca for a projected three volumes featuring Pears. The first, with Julian Bream, included Renaissance lute songs by Dowland, Morley and others. The second, was presumably intended to included 18th– and 19th-century titles but was never made. The third, made in 1955, consisted of 20th-century English song, and much of this appears on CD for the first time [CD2: 10-21].

A year earlier, Pears and Britten recorded nine of Britten’s folk song arrangements; these particular recordings (made in the same sessions as those for Winter Words) too receive their first release on CD [CD2: 1-9].

More British song was recorded with Britten in 1963 and with pianist Viola Tunnard (who worked closely with Britten in the 1960s, particularly on the Church Parables) in 1964. Of special interest too, will be works he commissioned from contemporary composers including the Cycle for Declamation by the South-African-born, Priaulx Rainier, a testing tour de force for unaccompanied voice and Richard Rodney Bennett’s dramatic 1961 setting for voice and cello of the anonymous 17th-century ballad Tom O’Bedlam’s Song.


CD 1
1 DELIUS: To Daffodils
2 MOERAN: The Merry Month of May
3 VAN DIEREN: Dream Pedlary
4 VAN DIEREN: Take, o take those lips away
5 WARLOCK: Piggénsie
6 WARLOCK: Along the stream
7 GRAINGER: Bold William Taylor
8-9 BUSCH: Two Songs of William Blake
10 BUSCH: If thou wilt ease thine heart
11 BUSCH: Come, o come my life’s delight
Peter Pears, tenor
Viola Tunnard, piano

12 BRIDGE: ’Tis but a week
13 BRIDGE Goldenhair
14 BRIDGE: When you are old
15 BRIDGE: So perverse
16 BRIDGE: Journey’s End
17-22 IRELAND: The Land of Lost Content
23 IRELAND: The Trellis
24-26 IRELAND: Three Songs
27-29 TIPPETT: Songs for Ariel
Peter Pears, tenor
Benjamin Britten, piano

30-33 BUSH: Voices of Prophets
Peter Pears, tenor
Alan Bush, piano

CD 2
1-9 BRITTEN: Nine Folksong settings
10 BRIDGE: Go not, happy day
11 BUTTERWORTH: Is my team ploughing
12 IRELAND: I have twelve oxen
13 MOERAN: In youth is pleasure
14 WARLOCK: Yarmouth fair
15 HOLST: Persephone
16 BERKELEY: How love came in
17 BRITTEN: Let the florid music praise!
18-20 OLDHAM: Three Chinese Lyrics
21 BRIDGE: Love went a-riding
Peter Pears, tenor
Benjamin Britten, piano

22 BENNETT: Tom O’Bedlam’s Song
Peter Pears, tenor
Joan Dickson, cello

23-25 RAINIER: Cycle for Declamation
Peter Pears, tenor
Benjamin Britten, piano


Recording information

Recording Producers: John Culshaw (CD1, CD2: 10-25); James Walker (CD2: 1-9)
Balance Engineers: Gordon Parry (CD1: 1-11, 27-33); Kenneth Wilkinson (CD1: 12-26, CD2: 22-25)
Recording Locations: Decca Studios, West Hampstead, London, UK, March 1954 (CD2: 1-9), September/October 1955 (CD2: 10-21); Kingsway Hall, London, UK, October 1963 (CD1: 12-26, CD2: 22-25), December 1964 (CD1: 1-11, 27-33)


To Daffodils is exquisitely sung, and The merry month of May is a tour de force spectacularly brought off by Viola Tunnard’ … ‘The record is completed by a splendid scena by Richard Rodney Bennett, the accompaniment for cello alone, and three prose texts by John Donne set by Priaulx Rainier for unaccompanied voice. Peter Pears sings these with marvellous intensity and understanding, and Joan Dickson’s cello playing in Tom O’ Bedlam is very good indeed.’ Gramophone