Although Samuel Barber excelled in every musical genre, his song output will always remain his finest achievement. This magnificent Hyperion issue comprises some of the composer's most inspiring creations such as the Hermit Songs, full of religious fervour interspersed with a trifle of the mundane, the Melodies Passageres which are a dignified tribute to the likes of Francis Poulenc and French song and last but not least, the soulful and expressive "Dover Beach", an early composition depicting human misery when loss of faith takes its hold and humans are separated from their fellow men.
This particular poem by Matthew Arnold evoked in Barber a certain feeling of timelessness and the composer is recorded as stating that this piece always commanded his affections even 50 years after its composition. The redoubtable Gerald Finley described of late as the best living baritone around, interprets the programme with a dramatic depth that is nothing short of stirring, and his technical prowess is indeed close to faultless. Sensitively accompanied by Julius drake, these Barber songs are exposed in all their fascinating beauty and one hopes that a second helping is not far off. Gorgeous sound and superb notes complete an invaluable addition to the Barber discography.
Copyright © 2008, Gerald Fenech