The First Songs of Travel

The 1954 Richard Standen / Frederick Stone Recital

This pioneering 1954 Westminster LP recital by Richard Standen (bass-baritone), accompanied by Frederick Stone (piano), has been remastered for Albion Records by Ronald Grames in excellent sound and issued on ALBCD055.  

This was the first recording of the (then) entire Songs of Travel and includes premiere recordings of five of the songs. We now know the full cycle of nine songs, but only eight of them were published in the composer’s lifetime. The ninth song was not found until after the composer’s death, some four years after this recording was made. Standen’s performance of Songs of Travel was highly regarded by Vaughan Williams.

Richard Standen lived from 1912 to 1987. He appeared on many recital and concert broadcasts on the BBC and soloed in the Bach passions under Vaughan Williams’s baton. He was a popular soloist in choral festivals throughout Great Britain and the European continent during 25 years of active performing, as well as a popular song recitalist. For 20 years he was a well-regarded professor of voice at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, beginning in 1963.

Frederick Stone is only known today as Kathleen Ferrier’s accompanist on a frequently reissued recital disc, but he had a remarkable 30-year career as a staff accompanist for the BBC and appeared in hundreds of broadcasts with many of the great and near-great performers of his time. This release pays homage to an artist who, sadly now almost forgotten, should be much better known.

Other works by Vaughan Williams in this recital are Silent Noon, The Water Mill – which we know Standen studied with Vaughan Williams – and Linden Lea. Other composers represented (all in the Sea Ballads second half of the recital) are:

Frederick Keel (1871-1954)
Michael Head (1900-1976)
Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924)
John Ireland (1879-1962)
Albert Mallinson (1870-1946)
Malcolm Davidson (1891-1949)
Peter Warlock (1894-1930).

In addition to Vaughan Williams, Head and Ireland were still living at the time the recording was made, and the recital included premiere recordings of Keel’s Three Salt-Water Ballads as a cycle, and of Davidson’s A Christmas Carol.

CD Artists and track lists
CD cover

Richard Standen


Standen and Stone offer direct and unmannered performances that are neat and nimble…  As a fine example of recital singing during the 1950’s this is impressive and insightful. Allied to the excellence of the audio restoration and the attractiveness of Albion’s presentation this makes for a wholly enjoyable hour’s music-making regardless of age.
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Nick Barnard
Musicweb International

The accompanying booklet gives the words of the songs, but with Standen, they are never needed. The first section has some of the best of Songs of TravelThe Vagabond, dauntless and sturdy, Bright is the Ring of Words, a joyous celebration of the transformative power of Art, while The Roadside Fire is sunny and exuberant. Standen delivers the melancholy spirit of Whither Must I Wander so movingly.
The other Vaughan Williams songs include a delicious performance of Silent Noon, the splendidly graphic narrative of The Water Mill and of course Linden Lea. …

I was truly impressed by the three sea songs by J. Frederick Keel, especially Mother Carey, a mythical threat to all ships. Albert Mallinson’s Four by the Clock and A Christmas Carol by Malcolm Davidson, darker with rich piano accompaniments, were new to me, but really worth hearing.

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Alan Cooper
British Music Society

…hugely enjoyable, well recorded and has been played more often than reviewing duty required. Warmly recommended.

David Morris
Elgar Society

An absolute must for VW fans as the spirit of the age lives on.

Andrew Palmer
Yorkshire Times


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