Tall Poppies


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 TP (1-900)


Song Offerings

2 Song Cycles by Val Gavin
Julian Gavin: tenor
May Gavin: piano

$23   (Australian dollars)


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Val Gavin (1935–2003) migrated to Australia from the UK with her parents in 1950. She was offered a place at the Sydney Conservatorium but left due to her family's financial strictures. After her disastrous failed first marriage, Val met Melbourne-based Paul Gavin on a trip to Orange to visit her parents. After a whirlwind romance Val and Paul married and had three children. Val helped support the family with her work as an "official ABC accompanist", and was a familiar sight in Melbourne's theatreland. During this time, her fascination with composition matured, producing several song cycles, concertos, an opera, and many smaller works. Val always maintained that being a woman and an Australian was "two strikes against her" and having been spurned by the music publishers she eventually gave up composing, and devoted herself to teaching and later, performing with her daughter May as Duo Gavin for over 15 years. Her music is not cutting-edge in its modernity, but is notable for her gift of melody, her unique harmonic language and beautiful structure.

This CD offers world premiere recordings of two of Val Gavin's song cycles, sung by her son, internationally acclaimed tenor, Julian, and her daughter May, a Melbourne-based pianist.

Val GavinA Shropshire Lad
Song Offerings


Circumstances may well inspire the listener to respond instantly to the heartfelt emotion in these songs. Val Gavin, a remarkable human being according her daughter May’s booklet biography, only had a brief flourishing as a composer. After moving from her native London to New South Wales, she used the resources of a late Romantic style unfashionable in the 1960s to personal ends. She died in 2003, in the same month as her husband; their son Julian Gavin, with May as well-established pianist, made this recording nearly seven years later. ShortIy afterwards, this truly world-class tenor – I'll never forget his Verdi Don Carlos at Covent Garden – was diagnosed with a rare form of encephalitis. The hope is for eventual recovery, but clearly it's a long haul.

There is no need to make allowances here. The rich tenor voice, lyric verging on helden, is used with superlative breath control and great power at climaxes which match the often refulgent nature of Val's piano writing, effortlessly negotiated by May. These settings of Housman's A Shropshire Lad compare well with Butterworth’s; they're often more robust and more agile in natural text-setting. Bredon Hill, with wistful piano bell-ringing between verses, is a good sampler of the feeling maintained throughout the disc, and Julian is searing in the darker, war-torn numbers.

The musical response to sometimes hazy Rabindranath Tagore is even richer in the piano writing, more varied still in mood-shifts and subtly inflected with oriental overtones. Miraculously, the long sequence never palls, constantly surprising in its sudden raptures.

Performance ★★★★
Recording ★★★★

David Nice
The BBC Music Magazine
July 2016

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 TP (1-900)



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