Review of CD ‘The Song of the Severn’ by Andrew Clements

Review in The Guardian 16th July 2015

4/5 *’s

Ian Venables’ music is unashamedly rooted in the English pastoral tradition. With their gently arcing diatonic melodies, spiced by the occasional passing dissonance, and meticulous attention to the detail of every word of the English poetry they use, the most obvious model for Venables’ songs seems to be Gerald Finzi. But there are cadences, too, of composers from earlier in the 20th century, such as George Butterworth and, especially, Ivor Gurney, on whom Venables has done a great deal of valuable research. The two song cycles that Roderick Williams sings with his usual exemplary musicality and tact show how convincing Venables’ occupation of that world can be – The Song of the Severn, for baritone, string quartet and piano groups together settings of Masefield, Drinkwater, Housman and Warner on the history and landscape of Worcestershire, while The Pine Boughs Past Music is a touching memorial to Gurney, using three of his poems as well as well an epitaph for him by Leonard Clark. Anachronistic though Venables’ music sometimes seems to be, as if yearning for a world that cannot be recovered, it can be powerfully convincing.


16th July 2015