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So is Roderick Williams in Gurney’s eight song cycle from 1920 The Western Playland and of Sorrow), one of the many settings of poems in A E Housman’s A Shropshire Lad and comparable to Vaughan Williams’ On Wenlock Edge. Whereas Vaughan Williams wrote his before WWI, Gurney’s came after and it replaces easy nostalgic tunefulness with a desperate quest for resolution and unattainable ease. Roderick Williams always seems to be trying to find a balance between drama and wistfulness, a balance that is rightly elusive. Beautifully supported by Michael Dussek and the Bridge, this is a wonderful recording. Gurney and Herbert Howells’ friendship started at Gloucester Cathedral, pupils of Elgar’s friend Herbert Brewer, and the west country is genuinely part of their upbringing, unlike Housman himself or Vaughan Williams.

Simon Mundy Read the full review on Agora Classica


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