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John Boyer
American Record Guide, August 2003

"Though it could be recommended at any price, at Naxos's bargain price it should not be passed up.

Naxos again supplies model notes by Keith Andersen, along with complete texts, The sound is superb: clean, spacious, and detailed. Tenor Anthony Rolfe Johnson and baritone Simon Keenlyside complement one another wonderfully. Keenlyside is at his best in songs calling for a strong delivery, while Johnson's softer singing, as at the line "While the moon shines gold from !›DThe Water Mill', is simply delicious.

The Five Mystical Songs are presented here in their simplest version, for solo voice and piano. Keenlyside and the ubiquitous Graham Johnson make the most of it, but those who know the grander version for orchestra, chorus, and soloist will miss its color and drama. Tenor Johnson is given On Wenlock Edge, which he handles sensitively.

The programming is well done, with an aim toward listening at a single sitting. With the exception of the two cycles, the songs are not grouped together by date or publication. Instead, they are distributed for variety and dramatic effect, the album beginning and ending with two beautiful duets on texts by Shakespeare that Vaughan Williams wrote in 1922.

A critic of the English pastoral school complained that this sort of music could be summarized as "a cow looking over a fence". Perhaps, but that is also an unintentional compliment. Listen, and you'll see the fence, the cow, and the larks whirling high in the air above the sun-drenched fields of wheat. What better testament to Vaughan William's art?"

Martin Cotton
BBC Music Magazine, April 2003

"Another reissue from the Collins English song series brings Rolfe Johnson's sensitive account of On Wenlock Edge back into circulation. A bargain, with only minor reservations."

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