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2014 Annual Lecture

SB (2)

"In all truth it may be said that the influence of the Eisteddfod is felt throughout the civilized world". So said Brinley Richards in the preface to the fourth edition of Songs of Wales. This volume of Welsh traditional melodies with simple but effective piano accompaniments composed by Brinley Richards was a huge best-seller for Boosey & Hawkes and it remained in print from 1879 until 1992. On Saturday August 9th this year Tŷ Cerdd’s annual lecture at the Royal National Eisteddfod in Carmarthenshire was given by Dr Lyn Davies and focussed on Brinley Richards and his Songs of Wales. Brinley Richards was closely associated with the Eisteddfod in its early days. Later on he moved to study and to live in London and also spent time under the tutelage of Chopin in Paris. On his return to London Richards helped establish the Royal Academy’s examination system throughout the United Kingdom (precursor to the Associated Board of Music). Dr Lyn Davies was joined during the session by the broadcaster and opera expert Frank Lincoln who spoke about Stuart Burrows and his legacy with particular reference to Songs of Wales.

Frank Lincoln writes:

Stuart Burrows OBE was born in 1933 on the same street in Cilfynydd as Sir Geraint Evans. Stuart trained as a teacher, but his rugby playing skills drew the attention of Leeds Rugby League Club, and they offered him a contract. But in 1959 he won the Blue Ribbon Singing Competition at the National Eisteddfod in Caernarfon, and that encouraged him to try his luck as a professional singer. His debut with WNO was in 1963 in Verdi's Nabucco, but his first major international engagement came four years later at the Athens Music Festival, where Igor Stravinsky, no less, demanded that Stuart should be the soloist in his opera/oratorio Oedipus Rex. The rest is history. Stuart quickly established himself as one the greatest lyrical tenors of his generation. He sang at all the major operatic and musical venues and was universally admired by great conductors such as Herbert Von Karajan, Sir George Solti, Zubin Mehta and Leonard Bernstein. Stuart's beautiful and unmistakable vocal timbre, along with the elegance of his musical phrasing earned him the reputation of being the world's greatest Mozartian tenor.

At the height of his career in the 1970s and 1980s, he starred in his own television series - Stuart Burrows Sings. It ran for eight years and made him a household name. As well as singing arias from opera and oratorio in those programmes, he also included Victorian songs and ballads in both English and Welsh, thus helping to re-popularise them. That is exactly what Stuart does on Tŷ Cerdd Label’s recently released Songs of Wales, featuring the work of the eminent Victorian composer Brinley Richards. Recorded in the mid-1980s, this is the first time for these performances to be released to the general public, and they provide ample proof, if any were needed, that here is a great singer at the height if his powers. One can only sit back and enjoy the beauty of the voice and the consummate artistry of the interpretations.

Stuart Burrows Songs of Wales is the third release on the new Tŷ Cerdd Label. Daniel Jones’ Bagatelles played by Llŷr Williams and Hilary Tann’s Stillness for solo cello and the recorded voice of poet R S Thomas were released earlier in 2014. Look out for Under Milk Wood: An Opera composed by John Metcalf which is due to be released in early November.