- Come to me in my dreams, for voice & piano, H. 71
You might guess from some of the packaging here that British baritone Mark Stone is trying to enter crossover territory with this recital of British love songs, but in fact he plays it straight, with nary a pop influence in sight. This is not to say the album wouldn't make a good Valentine gift for the right person. Stone's program has several virtues, not least among them the fact that no one will need the supplied booklet texts; his delivery is natural and perfectly intelligible, animated by the syntax of the poetry. His voice, warm and most attractive in its middle register, is well suited to art song. Best of all is his knack for making songs from various eras hang together within his stated concept: "songs of passion, pain, & pleasure." (There are even a few songs that hint at more metaphysical love.) The range is from Dowland to a song in the style of Roger Quilter by Stone's able accompanist, Stephen Barlow, with a concentration of songs from Britain in the early 20th century and a smaller group from the Baroque; even with a pair of Haydn's English songs in the mix, the music seems to reflect an English mode of expression and a characteristic tendency to draw on high-quality texts; sample Frank Bridge's setting of Matthew Arnold (track 7) or George Butterworth's pair of songs to A.E. Housman, especially the weirdly static "With rue my heart is laden" (track 13). The album is worthwhile not only as a fine collection of love songs, but perhaps even as an introduction to modern British song; the stylistic contrasts among the various composers emerge clearly when their energies are focused on a single theme. A fine effort; great fun.