Classic FM Magazine

“Fans who remember Michael Flanders and Donald Swann’s immortal show At the Drop of a Hat will need no reminding of Swann’s musical and pianistic gifts. These were the more remarkable for being so understated, as was required by Swann’s role in the show – that of the put-upon straight man to Flanders’ attention-hogging rogue. Since his death in 1994, Swann has been largely remembered for this and little else. The Isles of Greece widens the picture. Swann’s lifelong passion for Greece began when he was posted there with an ambulance unit in 1944, and subsequently focused on the small Dodecanese island of Casos. Musically, the fruits of this cross-cultural love affair included Greek folk songs which Swann noted down. There were also his original settings of modern Greek poets, and the Casos Sonnets that Swann composed to his own words in 1986. All these feature in The Isles of Greece, with the Casos Sonnets in two performances. One is by Swann himself, recorded at home on a cassette tape as he sings and accompanies himself at the piano in his inimitable style – not quite over the top but nearly. The other, expertly arranged for chamber orchestra and conducted by John Jansson, is interleaved with the Greek folk-song settings. The three excellent singers are Lucinda Broadbridge, Juliet Alderdyce and Jeffrey Cresswell. The music itself combines an easygoing unpretentiousness with quiet and searching intelligence. There is real intensity as Lucinda Broadbridge strikingly conveys in the fourth of the Casos Sonnets. And the best of the Greek settings, such as Palamas’s Anatolia, are bewitching. (Record of the Month, March 2000)

—Malcolm Hayes