Stephen Banfield. Sensibility and the English Song: Critical Studies of the Early 20th Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988. xvii, 619 pages.

Adams, Byron

Although the history of English music contains examples of composers who wrote well for single voice and instrument--Dowland or Purcell come first to mind-a tradition of art song with piano accompaniment developed in England much later than the German Lied and French metodie. The retarded development of the art song in England, its subsequent flowering and present continuation are chronicled extensively in Stephen Banfield's book Sensibility and the English Song. Banfield has undertaken the heroic task of surveying in one volume the course of English art song from the Victorians to the present; the result is a significant achievement, though one unfortunately marred by lapses in organization, perspective, and discrimination. Sensibility and the English Song is a remarkably inclusive book. While Banfield mercifully excludes such peripheral figures as Liza Lehmann and Maude Valerie White, he examines a catholic assortment of music, ranging from the songs of such major composers as Vaughan Williams and Britten to those of Benjamin Burrows, who is described as "an obscure freelance music theory tutor who led an unadventurous life in Leicester".



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February 6, 2015