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The English composer, vocal coach, and conductor Betty Roe (born 1930) studied voice with the baritone Clive Carey and the stellar Purcell soprano Margaret Field-Hyde, as well as composition with Lennox Berkeley. In the current music scene, Betty Roe’s songs are almost defiantly, aggressively tonal and folk-like, like paintings by Grandma Moses popping up at an exhibition of dour minimalist artists. Singing with ever-ardent conviction, Stephen Varcoe lavishes crisp diction on cryptic poems about a house, gardener, and scooter by Marian Lines, somehow echoing the American poet William Carlos Williams. Robin Tritschler’s rendition of The Fair Singer, to a poem of Andrew Marvell, is convincingly Irish romantic. Also intriguing are Roe’s settings of poems by Thomas Hardy for baritone and soprano duet. Although Varcoe and the soprano Anne Marie Sheridan are ideally characterful, the existential solitude of Hardy’s universe sounds compromised by according it to two voices. The pianist Nigel Foster, founder of the London Song Festival, plays with audible affection for the material.

BENJAMIN IVRY Read the full review on Agora Classica

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