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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Various Composers - The Soldier: From Severn to Somme (Christopher Maltman; Joseph Middleton)


  1. George Butterworth - Loveliest of Trees
  2. Ivor Gurney - Black Stitchel
  3. Arthur Somervell - On the Idle Hill of Summer
  4. George Butterworth - Look Not Into My Eyes
  5. Gustav Mahler - Wo die Schoenen Trompeten Blasen
  6. Gabriel Fauré - Les Berceaux
  7. Charles Ives - He is There!
  8. Arthur Somervell - White in the Moon
  9. Ivor Gurney - Severn Meadows
  10. Gustav Mahler - Revelge
  11. Modest Mussorgsky - The Field-Marshall
  12. Ivor Gurney - In Flanders
  13. Arthur Somervell - Think no More, Lad
  14. Robert Schumann - Die beiden Grenadiere
  15. Hugo Wolf - Der Tambour
  16. Robert Schumann - Der Soldat
  17. Gerald Finzi - Channel Firing
  18. Arthur Somervell - Into my Heart an air that kills
  19. George Butterworth - When I Was One and Twenty
  20. George Butterworth - The Lads in Their Hundreds
  21. George Butterworth - Is My Team Ploughing?
  22. Francis Poulenc - Lune d'Avril
  23. John Ireland - In Boyhood

Christopher Maltman, baritone
Joseph Middleton, piano

Date: 2020
Label: Signum Classics



A year after Ian Bostridge’s ‘Requiem: The Pity of War’ (11/18), here comes another British singer with a moving commemorative song programme. Both Bostridge and Christopher Maltman feature George Butterworth’s A Shropshire Lad but the baritone dots his selection of five of them around a programme that he imaginatively splits into four parts, not by composer (as Bostridge does) but according to stations in a typical soldier’s life.

The programme is rooted in English song, where Maltman has proved so at home ever since the release of his debut album two decades ago, but he shows his versatility by including songs in three additional languages (not to mention a burley American accent for Ives’s ‘He is there!’). The project’s long gestation, explained in a personal note by the baritone, can be heard in every bar: it’s a selection that has been honed over the years.

It takes us on a fascinating, moving journey through the early idylls of ‘Home’, the bitter horrors of ‘Journey’ and ‘Battle’ to the heartbreaking ‘Epitaph’. The latter concludes with Poulenc’s exquisite ‘Lune d’avril’. Ireland’s tender ‘In boyhood’, included as an encore, tries to return us to lost innocence.

Maltman’s baritone is impressive and authoritative, and he’s a sensitive, natural communicator who brings a directness to the songs’ many emotions. It’s never been a honeyed voice, and his recent expansion into larger operatic repertoire has, it seems, led to a greater spread in the higher register and at lower volumes, but the sincerity and integrity of his performances are compelling.

For his part, Joseph Middleton is superb in conveying all the worlds conjured up by some demanding piano-writing: from those delicately portrayed English landscapes to the thump of drum and artillery, Mussorgsky’s bloody battlefield, Mahler’s biting cold irony and Ives’s twiddly Yankee-doodling. It all adds up to an affecting, intelligent recital that’s well worth seeking out.

-- Hugo Shirley, Gramophone

More reviews:


Christopher Maltman is a British operatic baritone. He was born in Cleethorpes and studied music at the Royal Academy of Music. While a student he won the Great Elm Festival Vocal Award as well as the Anna Instone Award, then curated by Capital Radio. In 1997 he received the Lieder Prize at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. He made his debut with The Royal Opera in 1997 and has since sung over fifteen principle roles there. Maltman currently enjoys an international career in the great opera houses of Europe and North America specialising in Italian dramatic baritone repertoire.


Joseph Middleton (born 10 January 1981) is a British classical pianist and lied accompanist. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music with Malcolm Martineau and Michael Dussek and won all the Academy's piano accompaniment awards. Middleton holds the post of Musician in Residence at Pembroke College, Cambridge and is Director of Leeds Lieder. Best known for accompanying singers and for his programming flair, he has played in music centres across the world. His recordings on Harmonia Mundi, Chandos, BIS and Signum has won numerous nominations for Gramophone and BBC Music Magazine Awards.


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