A Countertenor Songbook

A Countertenor Songbook

NMC Recordings
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Release Date: 19 October 2018

This album brings together the works of seven very different composers in a single songbook. Most of the pieces were written specially for countertenor Andrew Watts, who has championed contemporary music for the thirty years he has been singing professionally.  He has established a reputation for being one of the foremost operatic countertenors of his generation and has appeared on opera and concert platforms throughout the world.

The two most senior composers on this recording link back to Andrew at the start of his career. His school music master Neville Bower (1934-2007) set three poems from William Blake's Songs of Innocence specially for Andrew, and when Andrew was an emerging singer, Michael Tippett (1905–1998) coached him on his song cycle Songs for Ariel, written for an Old Vic production of William Shakespeare's The Tempest.

Colin Matthews (b1946) has long been fascinated with nineteenth-century French poets and the fin-de-siècle sound and in his song cycle Un Colloque Sentimental uses poems by Paul Verlaine, Charles Baudelaire and Gerard de Nerval. Michael Finnissy (b1946) chooses German dramatist Georg Büchner as his inspiration, setting extracts from Woyzeck and Lenz.

Kings, knights and troubadours are the themes explored in the recent works written for Andrew by Joe Cutler (b1968), Tansy Davies (b1973) and Raymond Yiu (b1973), and there is an extra piece by Raymond Yiu; a piano and countertenor arrangement of the fifth movement of his Symphony for countertenor and orchestra.

Andrew Watts writes: 'I am indebted to all of the composers featured on this recording for their kindness over the years and for agreeing to be a part of this journey. From a last-minute coaching session at the Royal Academy of Music with Michael Tippett in 1986 to a random drink at Dartington in 2013 with Joe Cutler, this recording also charts the incredible serendipity and bringing together of people through music.'

Iain Burnside piano
Andrew Watts

1. Michael Tippett: Songs for Ariel I Come unto these yellow sands
2. Michael Tippett: Songs for Ariel II Full fathom five
3. Michael Tippett: Songs for Ariel III Where the bee sucks
4. Michael Finnissy: Dann nicht zu fragen I
5. Michael Finnissy: Dann nicht zu fragen II
6. Joe Cutler: Song for Arthur
7. Raymond Yiu: Forget-Me-Not
8. Tansy Davies: Song of Pure Nothingness 
9. Neville Bower: Songs of Innocence Op. 46 I Infant Joy
10. Neville Bower: Songs of Innocence Op. 46 II Piping Down the Valley
11. Neville Bower: Songs of Innocence Op. 46 III Little Lamb
12. Raymond Yiu: Symphony
13. Colin Matthews: Un Colloque Sentimental I Colloque Sentimental, 1ere Partie
14. Colin Matthews: Un Colloque Sentimental II Le Jet d’Eau
15. Colin Matthews: Un Colloque Sentimental III Que diras-tu ce soir
16. Colin Matthews: Un Colloque Sentimental IV Intermezzo Une Allee du Luxembourg
17. Colin Matthews: Un Colloque Sentimental V Colloque Sentimental, 2ere Partie




'Watts not only succeeds in negotiating a very wide variety of styles, moods and approaches but also imparts each song with a keen sense of its own identity…Iain Burnside’s impeccable accompaniment is precise and sure-footed throughout. A songbook for all seasons' Gramophone

'Burnside's accompaniments are played with distinction … he and Watts display great rapport, and the countertenor is remarkable' Fanfare

Official Charts


NMC is especially grateful for the support of Barry Ife & Trudi Darby and Frances Onians in making this recording.

NMC is grateful to the RVW Trust for supporting the recording of this album.


All works were recorded between 23-25 February 2018 at Potton Hall, Suffolk

Recording Producer & Engineer: DAVID LEFEBER 

(P) 2018 NMC Recordings Ltd
© 2018 NMC Recordings Ltd

Catalogue number: NMC D243
Release Date: 19 October 2018