songs by Robert Hugill

to texts by English and Welsh poets





British composer Robert Hugill’s new release QUICKENING is an enthralling and intimate showcase of contemporary art song. Across the album, Hugill demonstrates an exceptional sensitivity to text and melody, both of which shine through his clear and lyrical musical language. The four sets of songs on the album are consummate modern lieder, and one can easily imagine hearing them at a private vocal recital alongside the Romantic song cycles of the nineteenth century.


Hugill’s songs employ a classic approach to vocal writing, and are defined by smooth melodies and supportive accompaniments that establish the setting for the text and vocalist. To this end, Hugill works with fascinating texts on this album, many of which lead to interesting and unusual musical structures. An excellent example of this is the song, “To His Love”, from the set Four Songs to Texts by Ivor Gurney. Here, instead of fitting the poetry to a traditional song form, Hugill composes something more closely representative of the text’s narrative, resulting in the sudden quieting of the piano so the song’s last lines are sung in as intimate a setting as possible.


The album’s titular work, Quickening, stands out both for its defined form and its instrumentation of mezzo-soprano, viola, and piano. The songs in Quickening flow continuously from one to another, and, with the addition of the accompanying viola, Hugill is able to exploit a variety of textures that are inaccessible in his songs for voice and piano. There is also an attractive lightness to Hugill’s writing for mezzo-soprano, which makes the sound world of the song cycle more inviting.


Throughout QUICKENING, both Hugill’s music and the performances of baritone Johnny Herford, violist Rosalind Ventris, mezzo-soprano Anna Huntley, and pianist William Vann convey the essential delicacy and intimacy of a salon-style vocal recital. As a result, the listener cannot help but walk into the world of each song cycle and dream of hearing them in a homey space of their own.




Hugill’s songs mark the modern extension of the nineteenth century lieder, art songs that should be in one’s home. Consider the intimacy of these works and the kinds of spaces they evoke.


Hugill’s songs respond to their individual texts, so consider the changes in mood and structure across each of the album’s song cycles, as informed by the specific songs’ texts.


A striking feature of this album are the settings of the contemporary poems by Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury.




My thanks to everyone who has supported this disc, particularly all those who provided valuable encouragement, and all who took part in our crowd-funding. I would especially like to thank Robert Douglass, Victoria Hall, and a number of anonymous donors for their support. Anna Huntley’s participation in the recording has been made possible by a generous donation from Mrs. Mary Hughes.


All Tracks Recorded November 14 & 15, 2016 at Potton Hall in Suffolk, United Kingdom

Producer & Editor Andrew Walton (K&A Productions)

Sound Engineer Deborah Spanton


Text by Rowan Williams (by permission of Carcanet Press)


Text by Ivor Gurney (by permission of Carcanet Press)


“Requiem” is dedicated to Rifleman Tom Clifford Spooner,

Queen Victoria’s Rifles (died 1 July, 1916)

(14-18 NOW)


“Song and Pain” In memoriam Norman and Lily Caplin


Executive Producer Bob Lord

Executive A&R Sam Renshaw

Audio Director Jeff LeRoy

Engineering Manager Lucas Paquette

Design & Marketing Director Brett Picknell

Design Ryan Harrison



Release Date: September 8, 2017

Catalog #: NV6121





Winter Journey  Text by Rowan Williams

Johnny Herford, baritone; William Vann, piano

01  Morning

02  Afternoon

03  Evening


Four Songs to Texts by A.E. Housman

Johnny Herford, baritone; William Vann, piano

04  He looked at me

05  He would not stay for me

06  Because I liked you better

07  A.J.J. – When he’s returned


08  When Summer’s end is nighing  Text by A.E. Housman

Johnny Herford, baritone; William Vann, piano


Quickening  Text by Christina Rossetti

Anna Huntley, mezzo-soprano; Rosalind Ventris, viola;

William Vann, piano

09  Song

10  Bitter for Sweet

11  Two Pursuits

12  Remember

13  Withering

14  The First Spring Day


Four Songs to Texts by Ivor Gurney

Johnny Herford, baritone; William Vann, piano

15 Song

16 Requiem

17 To His Love

18 Song and Pain





Allen Brings

















NAVONA Records is the contemporary classical label imprint of audio production house PARMA Recordings. Dedicated to highlighting forward thinking composers and musicians from around the world, the New England-based label's eclectic catalog offers listeners a cross-section of today's up-and-coming innovators in orchestral, chamber, and experimental music.



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