Is it perhaps the sheer variety of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ text settings that makes him less performed as a composer of English song? He’s certainly less uniform in style and intent than, say, Finzi, or Warlock, or in some ways even Britten. From the late Victorian hale-and-heartiness of Songs of Travel to the esoteric utterances of Along the Field or the Ten Blake Songs, the gamut he runs is exceptionally wide with instrumental accompaniments often stretching above and beyond the humble piano.

Nicky Spence

One of the immediate strengths of Nicky Spence’s new album for Hyperion is how cohesive a feel he brings to a program that ranges through the mystic passions of the Four Hymns (with obligato viola and piano), the rose-scented minstrelsies of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s The House of Life, and a trio of rumbustious folksongs thrown in for good measure, culminating in On Wenlock Edge, Vaughan Williams’ masterly Ravel-inspired settings for tenor, piano and string quartet from Houseman’s