Classical Music Replay: Peter Dawson: Songs and Arias Various accompanists (Recorded: 1925-1939) (Memoir Classics CDMOIR 434)

Robert Cowan makes his pick of the latest reissues
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The Independent Culture
Those who think of Kiri's Gershwin, Jose's Bernstein or Jessye's Cole Porter as gimmicky may or may not know that the operatic stars of an earlier era - Gigli, Melchior, Tauber, Traubel, Pinza, Ponselle, etc - could "lighten the tone" with equal relish. The Australian bass-baritone Peter Dawson, a would-be industrialist who won a singing contest while still young, was another. The voice itself is big, firm and skilfully employed, whether in the tender lyricism of "The Cobbler's Song" or the chuckling high spirits of Katie Moss's "The Floral Dance".

Pre-war, "classical" and "popular" songs were closer in style than they are nowadays, hence Elgar's "O My Warriors" (Caractacus) inhabits a Romantic musical climate that's similar to Love Could I Only Tell Thee and She is Far From the Land. Dawson's operatic credentials are finely displayed in a superb "O Ruddier than the Cherry" (Handel's Acis and Galatea), though Iago's "Credo" (Otello, sung in English) sounds about as evil as a friendly village Bobby. Still, one listens to Dawson primarily for his magnificent voice, wholesome characterisations and interpretative sincerity, virtues that inform every one of these 23 tracks.

The transfers (by Michael Dutton) are quite superb - and, yes, Waltzing Matilda is included!

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