Jonathan Dove: All You Who Sleep Tonight

Released in 2014 with the support of a grant from RTF, this recording brings together song cycles by the leading composer Jonathan Dove.

Music is performed by Andrew Matthews-Owen (piano); Claire Booth (soprano) and Nicky Spence (tenor).

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Review by Richard Fairman, Gramophone:

If you want to find out what has happened to English song since Britten, this is as good a place to start as any. Jonathan Dove has an appreciable number of solo vocal works to his name. The four song-cycles on this disc share the characteristics that give Dove his individual voice – not least the skill, perhaps learnt from Britten, to light upon a simple idea that encapsulates a whole song – and yet they are strikingly different.

In the unaccompanied Ariel, soprano Claire Booth starts by mimicking the sound of the sea on the shore, adds a barking dog and a cock crowing, and so completely embraces the world of The Tempest, glimpsed in shards of Shakespearean text, that the cycle almost feels like an opera in miniature. It is a virtuoso performance, sung with sensuous beauty. Out of Winter, to poems by the tenor Robert Tear, is a sometimes wry reworking of Britten’s Winter Words (the stories of the journeying boy and the choirmaster’s burial are each given a thoughtful twist). Tear knew how to pen texts that would sing well and tenor Nicky Spence puts them across with Pears-like point. The other two cycles – the Lorca-based Cut My Shadow, and All You Who Sleep Tonight on short poems by Vikram Seth – fall to mezzo Patricia Bardon. Her singing is all earth and fire in the brief Lorca cycle but All You Who Sleep Tonight, sensuous and playful, is carried to an ecstatic climax on waves of minimalist rhythmic energy (the one facet of Dove’s style that may seem predictable). Andrew Matthews-Owen is the supportive accompanist. Here are four highly imaginative new song-cycles, each deserving of a life of its own.