COMPLETE FOLK SONGS WITH GUITAR / BRITTEN: Songs From the Chinese. Nocturnal, after John Dowland. I Will Give My Love an Apple. Sailor-Boy. Master Kilby. The Soldier and the Sailor. Bonny at Morn. The Shooting of his Dear. Little Sir William. The Bonny Earl o’ Moray. The Trees They Groves So Hight. Oliver Cromwell. The Foggy, Foggy Dew. The Last Rose of Summer. Ca’ the Yowes. The Crocodile. Greensleeves. The Deaf Woman’s Courtship / Jérome Billy, ten; Alain Rizoul, gtr / Maguelone MAG 358.422
Jérome Billy is a light French tenor, mostly noted for Mozart roles, who here performs the very British folk song arrangements of Benjamin Britten in their settings with guitar accompaniment. Although Billy’s voice is nothing like that of Peter Pears, for whom the songs were written—he has a light, very bright voice, not a dark, plummy one—he does a good job on them, and his English diction is not only surprisingly good (although, in The Foggy Dew, he pronounces the word “weaver’s” as “wavers”) but much clearer than that of many an English-speaking tenor. He is also an excellent interpreter and musician, which helps considerably. In fact, the only thing I didn’t like about this album was the over-resonant acoustics in which both voice and guitar swim while they are performing.
I must also praise the excellent guitar playing of Alain Rizoul, who plays his instrument with strong plucking of the strings as Julian Bream did. This, too, is a touch of historical authenticity without which many of these songs would fall flat. It also helps in his solo tracks, such as the Nocturnal, after John Dowland.
I was absolutely delighted with Billy’s singing of the more familiar Britten folk song settings, such as The Bonny Earl o’Moray, The Foggy, Foggy Dew, The Last Rose of Summer etc. He has the kind of tenor voice I could listen to all day long and never tire of. If I haven’t said a lot about this disc it isn’t for lack of enthusiasm so much as I just sat back and enjoyed every minute of it.
This is a real gem, not to be missed by fans of these songs and Britten’s settings of them!
—© 2019 Lynn René Bayley
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