CD - Fairy Songs / 妖精の歌

I have always believed in magic and have loved tales of mystical beings ever since my beloved Scottish nanny introduced me to a world of wonder when I was little. She never failed to point out a fairy ring of mushrooms or the dew sparkling on a spider's web in the early morning as if touched by a wand when we went for our morning walk. She read me wonderful tales of magical folk that fired my imagination such as "Little Grey Men" and "Down the Bright Stream" by B.B, closely followed by stories from Andrew Lang's many coloured Fairy Books, "The Hobbit" and the Narnia Chronicles. I can still remember the joy and fascination of discovering this parallel race of beings.

子供のころ、最愛のスコットランド人の乳母が、不思議な世界のことを教えてくれて以来、私は魔法の存在を信じ、神秘的な生き物の話を好んできました。彼女は朝の散歩のときに、妖精が踊った跡といわれる輪を描いて生えたキノコや、魔法使いが杖で触れたかのようにクモの巣の上で煌めいている朝露を見つけては、指し示してくれたものです。彼女といっしょに、妖精たちの驚くべき物語をたくさん読んだ私は、未知の世界に想像を膨らませました。

Fairies can be mischievous, they like to play with humans, lead them on, entice or entrap. The creatures of the other world are not always beautiful, there are goblins, dragons, shape-shifters, witches and the like. They can be truly terrible in their beauty, casting spells of enchantment and luring the unsuspecting to their doom or to madness. They can be a trick of the mist, strange lights that move ever on just out of reach so that the victim gets led into a marshy bog from which they cannot escape or perhaps singing a siren song that makes men desperate to dive into the depths of the sea.

This other semi-hidden world has held a fascination for us humans since the beginning of time. Fairies have their roots in folklore and in word-of-mouth tales, with the nymphs of Greek mythology, the Arthurian legend of medieval literature, through Shakespeare, Victorian pre-Raphaelite paintings to the present day. Various physical and mental ailments were blamed on the fairies because they could not be rationally explained at the time – hence the expression "Away with the fairies". At times the border between fairy spirits and ghosts of the dead became blurred, or people believed that these were possibly fallen angels come to earth to torment humanity. In the British Isles tradition was particularly strong in Celtic and Irish mythology with the belief that fairies were descendants of an Old people, a smaller but more powerful race. When babies were born in Ireland it was thought that a fairy might steal the baby away and leave a changeling child in its place.

I have been gathering this collection of fairy songs together for a while now and I am grateful for the inspiration of Katsuyo Watanabe who introduced me to the Fairy Museum in Japan in a few years ago. The harp was the perfect instrument to accompany and Danielle has skilfully adapted the piano accompaniments.

I have chosen to use settings of poetry by late 19th and 20th Century composers, the pre-Raphaelite movement of Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti were no doubt an inspiration for Stanford in his setting of John Keats' La Belle Dame sans Merci.

Man has illuminated his landscapes with cities and there are many less wild places left, but tread lightly, keep your eyes open and just maybe you will catch a glimpse, hear a faint tinkling laugh, see a shadow out of the corner of your eye, or a shifting shape in the moonlight, because I am sure fairies are still out there somewhere…


"Charlotte de Rothschild is a lyric soprano who has made a great impact throughout the world. She has a voice of enviable clarity. She has worked with the harpist Danielle Perrett for 19 years.. they make an accomplished duo. This is an important CD..there are treasures here and some composers you may not know..these 19th and 20th Century songs are a joy to have and the singer has a lovely voice."
David Wright DMus


Remarkable soprano with superb technique
I had not encountered Charlotte de Rothschild before and am the richer by the experience of having done so now. I was astonished at the sheer perfection of her diction and delivery apart from the power, vocal technique and warmth of the voice. This CD presents various poems on the fairy theme by such as Shakespeare and Keats, set to music by a variety of English composers including Roger Quilter, Charles Villiers Stanford and Hamilton Harty. The singer is well up to any Lieder standard and the net result is absolutely charming. The accompanying booklet is very informative about the singer as well as the harpist and violinist. The embellishing harp accompaniment is particularly sensitive revealing complete accord with the singer and the poetry. Full "librettos" are included.
Altogether, an exquisite example of what might be expected from a very superior recital in a Victorian/Edwardian drawing room. This CD is worth listening to by anyone with an interest in the sheer power of expression inherent in a well controlled, cultivated voice of a singer with a true feeling for the text.

June 2012 Amazon (5/5)


Themed recitals, and so themed CDs, are not that uncommon but Charlotte de Rothschild has made something of a speciality of them and toured the world with them. Her 'Family Connections' recital used songs from her own family's Livre d'Or dating back to the 1820s. Her 'Woman's Lot' recital includes song accompanied by the harpsichord. Just recently she has also toured a 'Making History' recital in which Danielle Perrett, herself well known as an international recitalist and a regular on CD, was her platform partner. She included something of mine in a recital which accompanied the Joan Miró exhibition in America.

What a wonderful pairing they make showing an extraordinary sense of understanding and of ensemble. The close recording would have exposed any anomalies on that score, and there are very few among the twenty-one mostly little known songs many of which should be much better known. Lovers of British music will be particularly pleased to discover more Armstrong Gibbs and Michael Head let alone Harold Samuel and also Herbert Brewer who is usually associated with church music. Some names will be totally new, for example John Larchet. What about harpist Nancy Calthorpe? So we owe Charlotte and Danielle much in making these pieces available.

In case you think that all of these pieces were written originally for voice and harp it’s worth remembering that quite often piano parts can be easily adapted or played as written on the harp if they do not demand too many pedal changes. Nevertheless the most idiomatic songs will clearly be audible: for example Danielle Perrett's own, lovely arrangement of A Garten Mother's Lullaby.

The disc successfully mixes arrangements of traditional melodies like the one mentioned above and those by Calthorpe and Marjorie Kennedy-Fraser with 'Art' songs. However although the cover presents the delicious painting (Titania and her fairies) by Edward Hughes (d.1914), a pre-Raphaelite, there are recorded just two settings of Shakespeare from 'A Midsummer Nights Dream'. These are by Julius Harrison and Cecil Armstrong Gibbs. The former repeats its opening lines but ends not at a full stop in the text but at a comma, leaving you somewhat in the air.

What about some of the highlights? Its good that all texts are not only available but also not microscopic as can often be the case. A wide range of poets are represented. The two songs by John Larchet are entrancing. He was Dublin-born and set texts by his countryman Padric Gregory partially using Irish words and phrases. These songs include the rich and darkly toned 'fiddle' of Marianne Olyver. Where there are Fairies of course, there are to be found the Irish or at least Irish folklore and poets. Charles Villiers Stanford, Irish to the bone, sets a poem by Moira O’Neill, The Fairy Lough, with its haunting refrain 'Loch-a reema'. Even through and through Englishman Michael Head captures the Celtic mood perfectly in his well known unaccompanied setting of The Singer with words by Bronnie Taylor. Hamilton Harty's A Lullaby is one of the most evocative songs on the disc with its more chromatic harmonies. It sets a poem by singer and poet Cahal O’Byrne.

The song which is the centrepiece of the disc is also the longest, Stanford's La belle dame sans merci, a poem by Keats, so beloved of the Pre-Raphaelites who were pretty much Stanford's contemporaries. Its opening is simple and the setting basically strophic. It develops dramatically up to the words La belle dame… and then slips back to how it began. It is movingly characterised by de Rothschild.

I took quite a shine to Harold Samuel's floaty and escapist The Fairy Boat. He was a pianist and famous as an early Bach specialist. The date August 1918 and the place Hastings indicate an attempt to put aside the terror and violence of that year. We wallow, just for a moment, in a dreamland where there are 'Fairies at the bottom of the garden'. The latter is the title of the witty song by Liza Lehmann - herself a professional singer - setting a famous poem by Rose Fyleman.

My only adverse criticism is that I would have liked, for the sake of variety, another unaccompanied song, and/or a harp solo. However the beautifully presented booklet has all of the texts, not that you will need them as Charlotte de Rothschild's diction is immaculate but there are some Irish words to get the mind around. There are the usual performer biographies and an accompanying essay on the overall theme of the CD. There’s very little on the individual pieces or the composers but then these charming miniatures really speak for themselves.

Gary Higginson

妖精は時にいたずら好きで、私たちを魅惑し、誘い、罠にかけることもあります。別世界の生き物たちには、必ずしも見た目がよいとは限らない、ゴブリンやドラゴン、化け物や魔女といったものたちがいます。美しくも恐ろしいものたちもあり、魔法をかけて眩惑させたり、疑いを知らない者を破滅や狂気に誘ったりします。つかめそうでつかめず、追うものを底なし沼に引き入れてしまう不思議な光、聴くものを深い海に飛び込まずにいられなくする魅惑的な歌、あるいは霧などでまやかしを仕掛けることもあります。この「半分隠れた世界」は、世の初めから私たちを魅了し虜にしてきました。

妖精の起源は人から人へと口伝えられた昔話、ギリシャ神話やアーサー王などの伝説、中世の文学、シェークスピア、ヴィクトリア朝のラファエル前派の絵画に見られ、現在へと伝えられてきました。「Away with the fairies(妖精といっしょに飛んで行け)」という表現が使われてきたように、昔は説明できない肉体的、精神的な病気は妖精のせいにされていました。妖精の精霊と死者の亡霊の境が明確でないときもありました。妖精は人々を苦しめる堕天使であると信じられた時代もありました。  イギリス諸島では、ケルトとアイルランドの神話が主流であり、妖精は、より小さいがより強力な「古き者たち」の末裔であると伝えられてきました。アイルランドでは、生まれた赤ちゃんを妖精が盗んで、代わりの子供を置いていくかもしれないと思われていた時代もありました。

今では、街が発展し自然の風景が少なくなってきましたが、少し歩き回って、目を大きく開けて観てごらんなさい! 一筋の輝きが見えたり、微かな笑い声が聞こえたり、瞳の隅に映った影が月の光に変わるのが見えるでしょう。妖精は必ず、どこかにいるのですから……

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Fairy Songs

I have always believed in magic and have loved tales of mystical beings ever since my beloved Scottish nanny introduced me to a world of wonder when I was little. She never failed to point out a fairy ring of mushrooms or the dew sparkling on a spider's web in the early morning as if touched by a wand when we went for our morning walk. She read me wonderful tales of magical folk that fired my imagination such as "Little Grey Men" and "Down the Bright Stream" by B.B, closely followed by stories from Andrew Lang's many coloured Fairy Books, "The Hobbit" and the Narnia Chronicles. I can still remember the joy and fascination of discovering this parallel race of beings.

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