Eaves Sings British Songs

cover CC9128

TAME CAT AND OTHER SONGS / HOLST: A Little Music. GOOSSENS: The Fan Song. BLISS: 2 Nursery Rhymes.* RUBBRA: In Dark Weather. DELIUS: Avant que tu ne t’en ailles. BRIDGE: Berceuse. COOKE: 3 Songs of Innocence.* HOLBROOKE: Tame Cat.* BRITTEN: Fish in the Unruffled Lakes. BUSH: Weaving Song. JACOB: 3 Songs.* MACONCHY: Take, O Take Those Lips Away. HOWELLS: Flood, McCABE: 3 Folk Songs* / Sylvia Eaves, sop; Courtney Kenny, pno; *Thea King, cl / Cameo Classics CC9128

This is one of those discs that is charming without trying or pretending to be deep. Nowhere online or in the booklet could I find a shred of information on soprano Sylvia Eaves, but she has a pretty little soubrette voice and terrible diction, the latter unfortunately par for the course among modern singers of any nationality. (At the start of the second song, the words are “A fan may talk,” but Eaves makes it sound like “A family dog.”) Since both the label and all the songs are British, I would assume that Eaves is British, too.

Several of the composers presented here are very fine ones, familiar to many, such as Holst, Bliss, Rubbra, Delius, Bridge, Cooke, Britten, Maconchy and McCabe. Eugene Goossens is a familiar name, but moreso as a conductor than as a composer. The others were new to me. All of the songs are perky and upbeat in tempo, and all three participants sing or play in an appropriately perky manner. I was especially charmed by the second of Arthur Bliss’ 2 Nursery Rhymes, “The Danedlion,” with its almost Renaissance melodic line and the perky, non-Renaissance lines played by clarinetist Thea King. But lady, if English is your first language, there’s really no excuse at all for such terrible diction. Even as far back as 1955 this was a complaint aired by Gwen Catley, one of the finest British coloratura sopranos of her time, who said that she couldn’t make out any of the words that singers sang, “neither the beginnings nor the ends of them.”

Fortunately, all of the song texts are printed in the booklet, which makes it possible to follow what Eaves is singing. This is a really lovely Sunday afternoon sort of recording, but it would surely be better if we could make out what she was singing. I was particularly delighted by the Delius song included here, with its Debussy-like harmonies.

But the real irony of this album is, despite being named Tame Cat and having a picture of a cat on the cover, the actual song of that title has nothing to do with cats. Here are the words:

It rests me to be among beautiful women
Why should one always lie about such matters?
I repeat:
It rests me to converse with beautiful women
Even though we talk nothing but nonsense,
The purring of the invisible antennae
Is both stimulating and delightful.

The End of Tame Cat.

I also liked the early Ben Britten song, Fish in the Unruffled Lakes, set to a poem by W.H. Auden.

Well, that’s about it. If you like a nice Sunday afternoon sort of disc, this one is good except for the singer’s garbled diction.

—© 2020 Lynn René Bayley

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