Reviewed by John Quinn

The first disc closes with one of the most impressive works in the entire collection. John Pickard has selected five poems by Laurence Binyon who, as he rightly says, is rather an unfashionable poet these days. Four of the poems are concerned with nature while one of them – the fourth song – is a love poem. I’ve heard some of Pickard’s orchestral music, notably the magnificent Gaia Symphony for brass band (review) but I’ve not previously heard any examples of his writing for the voice. The vocal lines are most impressive – and Roderick Williams’ superb singing makes the most of them – while the scoring of the accompaniment is never less than fascinating. The only question I have is to wonder whether in live performance the singer might be overwhelmed by the orchestration at times: that’s not an issue on this recording, though. All five of these songs are very fine indeed and I will just single out the last two. The fourth song, ‘When all the World is hidden’, is a wonderfully lyrical love song. The level of melodic inspiration is very high indeed and the song is a fine example of the English song tradition – I was reminded of some of the excellent songs of Ian Venables. The concluding song, ‘The Burning of the Leaves’, is by far the most substantial – it accounts for over half the length of the cycle. It’s a setting of one of Binyon’s last poems. Pickard’s music is very powerful and genuinely enhances Binyon’s words. I was deeply impressed by this song. Marvellously sung by Roderick Williams and splendidly played by the orchestra under Gavin Sutherland, John Pickard’s song cycle counts as a major discovery for me and a highlight of this set.

Full review at www.musicweb-international.com