Norman Lebrecht Album of the Week: I’ll Take It Again, Jeeves!

Norman Lebrecht Album of the Week: I’ll Take It Again, Jeeves!
Norman Lebrecht Album of the Week: I’ll Take It Again, Jeeves!
For his review today, Norman Lebrecht has chosen an album by soprano Mary Bevan, who, together with tenor Nicky Spence and pianist Joseph Middleton, wades through compositions referring to the 1920s.
Illustration photo (source Audiolovers)

In dire need of what British writer Pelham Grenville Wodehouse’s butler Jeeves called a scrounger, I turned to the frivolity of the bird era, when the party only got going when Noël Coward or one of the Gershwins cranked it up at an out-of-tune piano. The 1920s were a time of escapism and amnesia: whatever you do, don’t mention the war. A virtuoso of superficiality, Coward was also a legendary playwright and author of songs about failed love and existential loneliness wrapped in sentimental marzipan. Coward wasn’t the only one who was world-weary, he was just better at it than the others.

In a selection of songs performed by a soprano Mary Bevan and tenors Nicky Spenceto a shimmering, Jeevesian piano accompaniment Joseph Middleton, we find many out-of-date authors who nevertheless radiate a period atmosphere. Benjamin Britten and William Walton hardly belong in this party, and Ned Rorem squeezes in here only because his attitudes so faithfully reflect Coward’s. Francis Poulenc is perfect, as is the insidious Englishman Roger Quilter. No one will leave empty-handed – the pair of opera singers are having a lot of fun and you have been cordially invited.

I loved their take on Kurt Weill’s Ode to the River Seine and Rorem’s adaptation Now sleeps the crimson petal – far more cynical than Quilter’s kitsch. Britten’s When you’re feeling like expressing your affection is an unexpected fuel to the fire from an exceptionally shy man. “The party’s over,” declares Coward. But he knows that’s not the case – and we know it too. Nothing can be taken seriously here and I feel much better now. I’d give it another shot, Jeeves!

Sample on Spotify:

Noël Coward and Friends: A Marvelous Party

Noël Coward: I’ll See You Again/Dance Little Lady/Poor Little Rich Girl/A Room With A View/Someday I’ll Find You/I’ll ​​Follow My Secret Heart/If Love Were All/Play
Noël Coward: Mad about the boy
Ned Rorem: Early in the Morning
Ned Rorem: For Poulenc
Francis Poulenc: Pastorale Calme et Mystérieux
Francis Poulenc: Banalités: FP 107: 2. Hôtel
Noël Coward: Parisian Pierrot
Kurt Weill: Complainte de la Seine
André Messager: De-ci, de là
Eric Satie: Gnossienne No. 1
Noël Coward: Any Little Fish
Igor Stravinsky: Valse pour les enfants
Noël Coward: Something to do with Spring
Roger Quilter: Love Calls through the Summer Night
Roger Quilter: Now sleeps the crimson petal
Ned Rorem: Now sleeps the crimson petal
Noël Coward: World Weary / Twentieth Century Blues
George Gershwin: The Man I Love
Noël Coward: If love were all
George Gershwin: By Strauss
Noël Coward: Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs Worthington
Benjamin Britten: When you’re feeling like expressing your affection
William Walton: Popular Song
Benjamin Britten: As it is, plenty
Liza Lehmann: Love, if you knew the light
Noël Coward: The party’s over now
Noël Coward: I went to a marvelous party

Mary Bevan – soprano
Nicky Spence – tenor
Joseph Middleton – piano

Label: Signum Classics
Release date: November 17, 2023
Norman Lebrecht Rating: ****/*****

The article is in Czech

Tags: Norman Lebrecht Album Week Ill Jeeves


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