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194

The GRAMOPHONE

February 1941

nomical impossibility. MyoId friend and confrere, Francis Brett Young, one of the most accurate observers and recorders of the natural scene alive, made a mistake of the same kind when in his novel, The C1"escent Moon, he wrote of a native Mrican tribe that used to salute the young moon rising at dusk, a feat which no young moon has yet achieved.

On R23 19 Sydney MacEwan sings on one side Annie Laurie, accompanied by an instrumental trio, and on the other side Will Ye No Come Back Again, accompanied by Duncan Morrison on the piano. Readers do not have to be reminded that Annie Laurie has been inadequately sung by more singers than any song ever written. I shall not give MacEwan full marks . He lacks the passion John McCormack could put into it, and is a shade too wistful. He is better suited by the old favourite on the other side, of which he gives the best performance obtainable on records . R23 II shows off the singer at his best. On one side is the old traditional song from Donegal , She Moved Through the Fair, and on the other the old Irish melody, The Lark in the Clear Air. On E4102 we hear on one side a delightful song from one of Mrs. Kennedy Fraser's albums, The Peat Fire Flame, with one of the most popular of all Gaelic airs on the reverse, Maighdeanan TUl na h-Airidh (" Maidens of the Sheiling "). This is sung in Gaelic. The Peat Fire Flame is sung in English. R2724 has on one side The Foggy Dew, which MacEwan sings perfectly, a nd on the other side In Summer Time on Bredon, which does not suit him at all. His voice requires the peat and the heather, not marl or loam or chalky uplands. Nobody touched Gervise Elwes in this song, and that old Columbia record of his with a scratch like a bonfire is better worth preserving than any that has succeeded it. R2298 is a good double, though I prefer MacEwan in Ye Banks and Braes to The Road to the Isles. That song has a queer history. I t was originally a pipe tune composed in the East by a piper of the Seaforths to the words of The Burning Sands of Egypt. Then the Reverend Kenneth MacLeod, of Gigha, wrote words to i t in Gaelic and English, and i t was included in Mrs. Kennedy Fraser's collection. It has become one of the most popular songs in Scotland and is sung far and wide at Scottish gatherings all over the face of the earth. In the end, I am inclined to say that Sir Harry Lauder sings i t better than any of them. And this is true of Loch Lomond. However, on R2198 MacEwan gives us a good Loch Lomond, and on the other side a very good ·Bonnie Mary of Argyll.

It was not to be expected that the recorders would allow the repertory of a si nger like this to neglect the Eriskay Love Lilt, and we find i t on Columbia DBI942 with the Coronach of Harold Boulton on the other side. MacEwan is hampered by a rather ridiculous orchestra in both songs, and I count neither among his most successful efforts . The Eriskay Love Lilt should be sung unaccompanied, except possibly by a clarsach, and i t has been partially spoilt by so many singers that by now the kind of interpretation i t demands would no doubt be considered too tame by the majority. I hope that the decision to transfer Sydney MacEwan to a Columbia list will not involve too much richness. There is a charming Columbia record of his (DBI970) with the beautiful traditional song The Green BUshes on one side, and on the other the old, old favourite, Bonnie Strathyre. I have had the privilege too of hearing some of his future Columbia recordings and suggest that readers should look out for Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair, an exquisite song, exquisitely sung. There are several records of Sydney MacEwan's I cannot find space to mention, but I must mention one more, Parlophone R2713. This has The Rowan Tree by Lady Nairne on one side and on the other side a delightful l i t t le song by Pickthall and McGill called Duna.

Sydney MacEwan, apa rt from his lovely voice, has the inestimable advantage of perfect enunciation . Not a word could be missed by anybody who listened to everyone of his records, and with clarity goes the ease which makes the best singing such a refreshment. More and more artists and audiences neglect Horace's dictum, Ars est celare artem. Hard writing makes easy reading. How many writers are neglecting that dictum to-day, and how many crilics suppose that what looks easy must have been easy! Singers are among the worst offenders in this regard. We have all of us heard sopranos and t enors who have demanded applause from an audience to reward them for the physical effort they were so obviously making. They tackle a song as a strong man tackles the heaviest bar-bell. I think I have told the story of an Irish gardener of mine to whom I had once played! a record of Kreisler 's. He enjoyed i t but at the end asked me if I had ever heard some violinist of his native land with whose name I was unfamiliar. "Ach, he was a splendid fiddler. You could see the sweat pouring off him when he was playing." Well, there is no sweat pouring off Sydney MacEwan. Every song is sung with the grace of a natural artist who has had the patience and the humility to learn his job. I commend his records to you as confidently as I have commended the records of any singers , and I have been lucky enough to be the first to acclaim in print two or three stars now of the first magnitude.

Maggie Teyte

I have to congratulate Messrs. Rimington, Van Wyck on the enterprise which gave us the magnificent album of Maggie Teyte in a series of songs by Berlioz, Duparc and Debussy. Of the eight examples I fancy one only has been recorded before, and that is Duparc's utterly enchanting Phidyle which was sung by Edvina. I do not have to celebrate the voice and singing of Maggie Teyte. There is nobody with any pretension to admire good singing who does not put her among the first few great sopranos of our time. Two of the songs she chooses, L'Absence and Le Spectre de la Rose by Berlioz, were new to me, and I am left amazed that I should have lived so long without hearing two such magical compositions. In both the accompaniments are provided by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Leslie Heward. Both are songs of extreme difficulty, but Maggie Teyte 's art triumphs where very few sopranos could succeed . No doubt that is why we very seldom hear either. Phidyle, which is also accompanied by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, is more familiar magic, but on the other side is an exquisite setting by the same composer of Baudelaire's L'Invitation au Voyage, which is equally lovely. The other two discs are devoted to Debussy and enhanced by Gerald Moore's piano accompaniment-De Rive, De Fleurs, and De Soir from the Proses Lyriques and the famous setting of Baudelaire's Le Jet d'eau. The recording has been made by His Master's Voice and the whole album is a joy. I am delighted to hear that the response from the public has been good, and I advise those who decide to acquire this string of pearls to do so as soon as possible, for I gather that they will soon be sold out.

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