William Vann

Conductor | Pianist

Discography

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Folk Songs Volume 1

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Folk Songs Volume 1

Mary Bevan (soprano), Nicky Spence (tenor), Roderick Williams (baritone), Jack Liebeck (violin), William Vann (piano)

Visit the Albion Records website for more information and to purchase.

This is the first in a series of four albums recording all 80 of the folk songs in English that Ralph Vaughan Williams arranged for voice and piano or violin. 57 of the 80 songs have not previously been recorded in these arrangements, so there is a good deal of unknown – but very beautiful – music to be found here.

This first album has 23 tracks including 15 world premières. It includes Folk Songs from Sussex (1912) and Six English Folk Songs (1935). Later volumes will include songs collected in the Eastern Counties (1908), the Appalachian Mountains (about 1938) and from Newfoundland (1946). Vaughan Williams is well known as a collector of folk songs, but his own collection by no means predominates in this series; most of the arrangements were made and published as a collaborative effort, drawn from many sources.

The 14 songs from Sussex on this album were all collected by Percy Merrick from Henry Hills, a farmer from Lodsworth, Sussex, around 1900. Some will be well-known in other arrangements; others will be unfamiliar.

Presto Recordings of the Year
Finalist 2020
Parry: Judith

Parry: Judith

Sarah Fox (soprano), Toby Spence (tenor), Henry Waddington (bass-baritone), Crouch End Festival Chorus, London Mozart Players, William Vann (conductor)

Visit the Chandos Records website for more information and to purchase.

Parry’s 1888 oratorio on the Apocryphal tale of an avenging Jewish widow emerges as a worthy successor to Mendelssohn’s Elijah in this gripping world premiere recording with Sarah Fox, Kathryn Rudge and Toby Spence.

Recorded after the first London performance for over 130 years, Parry’s neglected oratorio here appears on disc for the very first time. Having been commissioned by the Birmingham Festival, Parry decided to combine the Old Testament stories of Manasseh and Judith. A good deal of the libretto was provided by Parry himself, who took other texts from the biblical books of Isaiah, Psalms, and Judith. Having originally conceived the work in four acts, Parry condensed it into two. Judith was premiered by Richter in Birmingham in August 1888, and it consolidated Parry’s reputation as a choral composer, numerous performances following in Edinburgh and in London. Although popular in his lifetime, Judith fell into obscurity after Parry’s death.

Presto Recording of the Week
21st February 2020
Record Review
7th March 2020
Record of the Week
Gramophone Magazine
April 2020
Editor’s Choice
Gramophone Awards
2020
Shortlisted – Choral
Presto Recordings of the Year
Finalist 2020
Time And Space: Songs By Holst And Vaughan Williams

Time And Space: Songs By Holst And Vaughan Williams

Mary Bevan - soprano
Roderick Williams - baritone
Jack Liebeck - violin
William Vann - piano

Visit the Albion Records site for more information and to purchase.

This album, released on 11 October 2019, includes fourteen world-première recordings – ten of works by Holst and four by Vaughan Williams. 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of The Ralph Vaughan Williams Society in June 1994. The Society and its recording subsidiary, Albion Records, are delighted to celebrate that with our first collaboration with the Holst Society, founded in May 2017. The two composers were not just the best of friends but also close musical colleagues; they would go off on walking holidays and ‘field trips’ and the cover photograph for the album records a blissful moment on a summers day from just such an adventure. The recording alternates the two composers, beginning with an early set of six songs by Holst, followed by Vaughan Williams’s rarely recorded song cycle Along the Field for voice and violin. We contrast the two composers in settings of cradle songs (there are five lullabies on the album). A series of folk songs is followed by Holst’s Four Songs for Voice and Violin. The album concludes with the ‘contest’ to set Darest Thou Now O Soul, Walt Whitman’s famous poem from ‘Sea Drift’. Vaughan Williams won that contest, but these first recordings enable us to make our own judgement.

Alan Charlton: Cloud and Mirrors

Alan Charlton: Cloud and Mirrors

Alan Charlton was a composer, music author and educator renowned for his innate musicality and intellectual rigour. Born in Perivale, London, in 1970, he studied horn, piano and composition at the Junior Royal Academy of Music before gaining a place at the University of Bristol to read Music. Charlton’s composition teachers included Raymond Warren, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Robert Saxton, Adrian Beaumont and Judith Weir. His compositions have won many awards, been broadcast on BBC Radio 3, and been heard in the UK, wider Europe and around the world, at venues including London’s Barbican, Purcell Room and St Martin-in-the-Fields, St George’s Bristol, Brussels Cathedral, and in India, Jordan, Tanzania and the USA.

In 2010 he invented an entirely new harmonic language, which he dubbed Charltonality, in which he has two different scales mirror eachother: every pitch in the first scale is paired to a pitch in the second scale, and they always sound together. The technique was devised in order to create new chords and chord progressions that would otherwise be physically unplayable and very difficult to imagine aurally.

His music was also inspired by landscape, nature, and birdsong, which he regularly sought out at his parents’ home in Wensleydale and on birding trips in Ireland and wider Europe. Charlton’s music affords technical and interpretative challenges to the performer, and it expects an attentive ear from the listener, but it has always been highly practical, whether written for professionals, amateurs or children.

The Song of Love

The Song of Love

Kitty Whately - mezzo-soprano
Roderick Williams - baritone
William Vann - piano

Visit the Albion Records site for more information and to purchase.

The Song of Love – songs and duets by Ralph Vaughan Williams performed by mezzo-soprano Kitty Whately, baritone Roderick Williams and pianist William Vann, includes fifteen world-première recordings and one first modern recording, including six unpublished works. Songs include arrangements of older or traditional songs in both French and German, including the Huguenot Battle Psalm and a troubadour song from the end of the 12th century. There are Three Songs from Shakespeare (not to be confused with the part-songs entitled Three Shakespeare Songs), settings of two poems by the Irish poet Seumas O’Sullivan, and two duets from 1903.

On 2 December 1904 Vaughan Williams promoted his own works at an amazing concert in what is now the Wigmore Hall. Amongst other first performances, The House of Life (a setting of six sonnets by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, including the ever-popular Silent Noon) was premièred by a contralto, Edith Clegg, with Hamilton Harty at the piano. There are many recordings: but all are by tenors and baritones. On this album Kitty Whately has made the first ‘female’ recording of the complete cycle – beginning to redress the balance.

The German and French songs are idiomatically sung by Williams (who enjoys the rollicking Buonaparty), while Whately’s limpid mezzo delights in The Willow Song and the settings from Measure for Measure, Love’s Labour’s Lost and Henry VIII. – Sunday Times “disc of the week”

Robin Holloway: The Lovers’ Well

Robin Holloway: The Lovers’ Well

Clare Lloyd-Griffiths (soprano)
Kate Symonds-Joy (mezzo-soprano)
James Robinson (tenor)
Simon Wallfisch (baritone)
Edward Rushton & William Vann (piano)

Visit Delphian Records for more information and to purchase.

Words have lain at the heart of Robin Holloway’s music throughout half a century of prolific composing. Released on the day of his seventy-fifth birthday, this album brings together six stellar performers associated with Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge – where Holloway is a Fellow – in celebration of the lyrical and dramatic qualities of his abundant output, as well as its profound symbolism.

The Lovers’ Well draws on a cycle of poems by Geoffrey Hill whose themes – a Spanish castle, amorous longing, carnal guilt, a wound that will not heal – make it a dark brother to Souvenirs de Monsalvat, a ‘waltz-synthesis on themes from Wagner’s Parsifal’ for piano four hands. Violence is barely contained by the formal games of A Medley of Nursery Rhymes and Conundrums, while radiant beauty imbues two works bringing together all four voices: a mini-cantata on couplets by John Ruskin and a partsong to words by Shelley.

In Remembrance

In Remembrance

Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea
Chelsea Pensioners' Choir
William Vann - director
Katy Hill & Leah Jackson - soprano
Gareth John - baritone
James Orford & Hugh Rowlands - organ

Visit SOMM Recordings for more information and to purchase.

In the centenary anniversary year of the end of the First World War and on the eve of the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War, SOMM Recordings pays tribute to those who fought and fell in battle with In Remembrance. A moving compendium of music spanning 130 years, it features the Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, the Choir of Chelsea Pensioners, Staff and Volunteers, sopranos Katy Hill and Leah Jackson, baritone Gareth John and organists James Orford and Hugh Rowlands under the direction of William Vann. Founded in 1682 by King Charles II, the Royal Hospital is home to the world-famous Chelsea Pensioners – retired veterans of the British army – whose contributions on three tracks adds its own special poignancy to In Remembrance. Moving choral works commemorating courage and offering comfort by Hubert Parry (his anthemic Jerusalem), Gustav Holst (the stirring I Vow to Thee, My Country) and Edward Elgar (his serene partsong They are at rest) are heard alongside equally affecting pieces by their contemporaries and successors, Charles Villiers Stanford, John Ireland, Douglas Guest and Charles Harris.

Directed by William Vann, the Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, with its clear, ringing tone, provides beautifully nuanced performances, especially of the a cappella items, Stanford’s numinous introit ‘Justorum animae’, Parry’s six-part ‘There is an old belief’, and Elgar’s elegiac ‘They are at rest’. – Gramophone

Quickening

Quickening

Anna Huntley - mezzo-soprano
Johnny Herford - baritone
Rosalind Ventris - viola
William Vann - piano

Visit Navona Records for more information and to purchase.

British composer Robert Hugill’s release QUICKENING is an enthralling and intimate showcase of contemporary art song. Across the album, Hugill demonstrates an exceptional sensitivity to text and melody, both of which shine through his clear and lyrical musical language. The four sets of songs on the album are consummate modern lieder, and one can easily imagine hearing them at a private vocal recital alongside the Romantic song cycles of the nineteenth century.

Hugill’s songs employ a classic approach to vocal writing, and are defined by smooth melodies and supportive accompaniments that establish the setting for the text and vocalist. To this end, Hugill works with fascinating texts on this album, many of which lead to interesting and unusual musical structures. An excellent example of this is the song, “To His Love”, from the set Four Songs to Texts by Ivor Gurney. Here, instead of fitting the poetry to a traditional song form, Hugill composes something more closely representative of the text’s narrative, resulting in the sudden quieting of the piano so the song’s last lines are sung in as intimate a setting as possible.

The album’s titular work, Quickening, stands out both for its defined form and its instrumentation of mezzo-soprano, viola, and piano. The songs in Quickening flow continuously from one to another, and, with the addition of the accompanying viola, Hugill is able to exploit a variety of textures that are inaccessible in his songs for voice and piano. There is also an attractive lightness to Hugill’s writing for mezzo-soprano, which makes the sound world of the song cycle more inviting.

A Vaughan Williams Christmas

A Vaughan Williams Christmas

Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea
William Vann - director
Hugh Rowlands - organ

Visit the Albion Records site for more information and to purchase.

Vaughan Williams was (with Cecil Sharp) one of the foremost collectors of folk songs from 1903, and collected many traditional carols as well. This collection is of carols as he arranged them, thus presenting his view of Christmas in the first half of the 20th century. He also wrote four completely new carols for the Oxford Book of Carols (tracks 12 to 15). The recording concludes with the first complete recording of ‘Nine Carols for Male Voices’, commissioned by the British Council in 1941 for performance by and for British troops serving in Iceland. Nearly half of the recording is accounted for by world première recordings. The recording was made in February 2018 in St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead. William Vann directs the Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea. Hugh Rowlands accompanies 13 of the 24 tracks on the church’s Willis organ.

A dark-toned, introspective harmonisation of ‘Coventry Carol’ and a jaunty ‘I Saw Three Ships’ stand out particularly. Clear-toned, welcoming performances. BBC Music Magazine

Earth & Sky: Vaughan Williams Choral Premieres

Earth & Sky: Vaughan Williams Choral Premieres

Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea
William Vann - director
Hugh Rowlands - organ

Visit the Albion Records site for more information and to purchase.

Albion Records is pleased to present fourteen choral works written by Ralph Vaughan Williams and a further eight arrangements made by him between 1896 and 1954 ? very nearly the length of his working career. 21 of the 22 tracks are world première recordings (we were pipped to ‘O Praise the Lord of Heaven’ by a June 2018 release!)

This varied collection includes salon music, folk song settings, hymns and anthems, patriotic songs and finally Gaelic songs in English translation. Vaughan Williams never repeated himself, and the variety on display here is quite astonishing.

The recording was made in February 2018 in St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead. William Vann directs the Chapel Choir of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, and plays the piano for four tracks. Hugh Rowlands accompanies a further 9 tracks on the church’s Willis organ.

Albion Records serves up another treat for all Vaughan Williams fans: over an hour’s worth of choral fare encompassing an agreeable variety of genres in conspicuously accomplished premiere recordings…these are winningly communicative, admirably disciplined readings…A job well done! – Gramophone

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