Ian Partridge  tenor
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Songs and music for solo piano

Ian Partridge, tenor
Len Vorster, piano

Naxos/Marco Polo: 8.225159

Available at Amazon.co.uk

Most people who have heard of Lord Berners probably associate him with one-off pieces such as The Triumph of Neptune. Personally, before this CD, I had only ever sung a couple of humorous songs: Red Roses and Red Noses and Theodore, or the Pirate King. The Australian based pianist Len Vorster, who was accompanying me in a recital for a Melbourne festival, had discovered some piano pieces by Berners and realised that, together with all his vocal output, an intriguing CD could evolve. Within these fifteen songs, spanning from 1913 to 1944, there is an immense variety of styles throughout, but Berners, with his innate sense of the ridiculous, seeks out the humour from any poem where others might have passed it by. One rather startling setting is of the famous poem by Heine, Wie bist du eine Blume. The words are sung to a romantic melodic line to the fair, white and pure beloved heroine of the poem, while the piano indicates with oinks and grunts that the true object of affection is nothing less that a precious white pig! The one opera that Berners wrote was set in French, a language he understood well, and his Trois Chansons display an affinity with the genre - three charming songs with delicate, impressionistic accompaniments. At the other extreme of his vocal composition is Come on, Algernon, a music hall piece he wrote for the feature film Champagne Charlie in 1944 - hardly a song for a man, let alone for one usually associated with the more serious classical repertoire, but it couldn't be left out! Naxos has just released the CD on its Marco Polo label and I hope it brings the music of this extraordinary man to the notice of a wider audience.

Ian Partridge, May 2000


Piano music: