Come Away Death (Roger Quilter)

I’ve only discovered Quilter recently, mostly because there was a book of his art song available at the Allans sale a few weeks ago and I was seduced by the prospect of singing Shakespeare’s poetry.  My friendly salesperson, who is a fellow lover of Purcell and 19th century French opera, eyed my choice with disfavour.  “Well… it’s very… pretty,” he finally said, clearly attempting diplomacy. And so it is…

Actually, what Quilter is, when he chooses to be, is magnificently, utterly, overwhelmingly self-indulgent.  Ian Bostridge actually shows a fair bit of restraint in singing this one.  I don’t, because I tend to feel that the whole point of this sort of music is to over-indulge.  To me, it’s like Chopin and Schubert and Dowland all got together to write something so over-the-top in its gloomy romanticism that you just feel better singing it.  But I do admire Bostridge’s ability to let the music speak for itself.

Which, when you consider it, is totally appropriate – the lyrics for this come from Twelfth Night, and this song is greatly favoured by Orsino, one of the most emotionally self-indulgent characters ever written.  You just know that Orsino would love Quilter’s setting of this music, and would probably listen to it again and again (that strain again, it had a dying fall…), probably with the curtains shut and the lights off in a dark, dark room where he can truly get his goth on.  Because that’s our Orsino, bless him.

And just for fun, here’s a version by counter-tenor Bejun Mehta, taking a very different, and much more romantic, approach than the Bostridge version.  My inner music critic suspects I should like Bostridge’s version more, but I bet Orsino would prefer this one…


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0 comments for “Come Away Death (Roger Quilter)

  1. Elettaria
    October 18, 2012 at 1:23 am

    Just a smidgen self-indulgent, yes! It doesn’t fit too well with any interpretation of Feste that I’ve seen, but it’s Orsino all over. And after all, if Feste is going to sing such an emo song for his boss, he may as well sing it with music that matches the words. Which, incidentally, seem a lot more innuendo-laden in this version, or is it just me? The main setting I tend to think of is the fairly simple one Ben Kingsley sings in the Trevor Nunn film, which I’m very fond of.

    • October 18, 2012 at 9:17 am

      I think Feste is perhaps gently mocking Orsino’s over-the-top romanticism with this song, actually. I mean, let’s face it, the words are pretty self-indulgent before you even add the music.

      (I hadn’t been paying attention to innuendo on first listening, but I think you are right…)

  2. filkferengi
    October 18, 2012 at 1:47 am

    Is there any way to set this up so it arrives delightfully via e-mail, like your food blog? If not, just keep linking here over there fairly regularly, & I’ll check in.

    Thanks for sharing fun stuff!

    • Catherine
      October 18, 2012 at 8:42 am

      I’m working on that – there I a button for it, but it is very big and ugly, so I’m looking for an alternative – I’ll let you know when I find it!

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