Recordings of Peter Warlock’s songs are largely dominated by male singers, so on that count alone this new disc by soprano Luci Briginshaw is welcome. Her recital, though, does much more than fill a niche in the discographical market. Carefully planned, chronologically, it charts a stimulating path through Warlock’s song-writing career, offering 28 of the roughly 150 settings he completed.
Briginshaw lays down impressive markers early, with a gently wistful take on Warlock’s first Shakespeare setting ‘Take, o take those lips away’, and an insinuating melancholy in ‘Heraclitus’. While her diction is clear, it’s the broader attention to line and contour which lends particular distinction to Briginshaw’s singing, words nestling comfortably on Warlock’s harmonically adventurous melodies.
The Elizabethan influences in ‘The bayly berith the bell away’ are astutely subsumed in Briginshaw’s heart-tugging rendition, both she and pianist Eleanor Meynell excelling in its lingering, regretful coda. In ‘Dedication’, Briginshaw opens the throttle on a voice which has considerable power in reserve, but can’t save the song from seeming suspiciously full of bluster. Generally Warlock shows more subtlety than that, especially in songs like ‘Sleep’ and ‘Autumn Twilight’, which underlay relatively straightforward vocal lines with more complex, probing piano commentary. ‘Spring’ is more light-spirited, with both voice and keyboard chirruping in lively, mimetic fashion, while the raptly performed ‘The Night’ is more abstemiously fashioned.
Briginshaw’s notes on the songs are uncommonly good, adding considerable value to her recital.