The Chronicle

It’s not just rock CDs that we misplace; this classical recording came out a few months ago but we, er, temporarily filed it in the wrong place (though when “down the back of the desk” is ever the right place, we don’t know).

It’s actually got a fair amount of local interest: it features the Manchester Chamber Ensemble and one of the pieces, 1969’s The Falling of the Leaves , was premiered at Wilmslow Parish Church.
The album features James Gilchrist (tenor) as it includes several song cycles, based on the work of several poets: Thomas Hardy, Hilaire Belloc, WB Yeats and Tennyson.

It opens with The Birds , a song cycle with songs ranging from 1.23 ( Proud Songsters and The Owl ) to just under four minutes for The Swan . Gilchrist is joined by John Turner on recorder to supply the avian air.

Like the album as a whole, The Birds has a distinct atmosphere to it; it’s very English and evokes a cold but sunny day in autumn, that’s both slightly gloomy as winter approaches — there’s a sense of unease throughout the album — but also uplifting because of a crisp breeze blowing the leaves about. The music captures the feel of poetry, even where you can’t make out the words.

Nature is a theme of much of the album, though after the birds, there’s a short (3.28) but evocative Plaint , which features the cello of Tim Smedley and piano of Harvey Davies. Again, the feel is autumnal and English (though it reminded us of the opening of Pictures At An Exhibition . Slightly).

This is followed by The Falling of the Leaves , premiered in Wilmslow and again featuring Gilchrist. It is based on six poems by Yeats, then Music In The Wood , based on the poetry of James Reeves. The album closes with Four Folk Songs , which are the four easiest songs, a bit Vaughan Williams. We liked this; it’s got a pleasant mournfulness about it that’s very English.

—Jeremy Condliffe