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Historical Performance: Two Recordings of Quilter, Go, Lovely Rose

1934 Mark Raphael – Voice; Roger Quilter – Piano

2014 Mark Stone – Voice; Stephen Barlow – Piano

Go, Lovely Rose is the third song in Quilter’s Op. 24 ‘5 English Love Lyrics’. This opus, and Op. 25 were “no more than loose collections of solo songs written by Quilter over a period of seven years and assembled together for the convenience of publication” (Hold, 1978, p.35). The song was published in 1923 and set a text by 17th-century poet, Edmund Waller. The original key of Quilter’s song is G-flat major, but Raphael / Quilter’s recording is E major and Stone / Barlow’s is E-flat (my examples are notated in E-flat). In this brief comparison, I shall focus predominantly on the first 8 bars (the first stanza) of Go, Lovely Rose by Roger Quilter. Differences between the two recordings may reveal performative differences which may enable inference of wider stylistic traits.

Stylistic differences emerge immediately from the 2 bars of piano introducing Go, Lovely Rose. Quilter, the pianist, employs unnotated arpeggiation and dislocation at metrically significant points within bar two (shown in Figure 1). These arpeggiations produce several effects: melodic emphasis, a “cushion of sound” beneath the melody note and to “enrich the sound” of the chords (Costa, 2012, p.102). A dislocation occurs on the first beat of bar 2 (highlighted in red in Figure 1), which may serve “to help render the downbeats salient” (Dodson, 2011, p.59). These effects help establish the mood of the music, that of a lilting, gentle quality. This attests to Costa’s observation, “On early recordings, rhythmic alterations can be heard most frequently in music of a slow or tender character” (2012, p.190). Quilter was in fact praised by Scott Goddard in Goddard’s 1925 article (quoted in Banfield, 1985, p.127) in The Chesterian for Quilter knowing “better than any of his compeers the exact weight of a spread chord in the treble and of a held octave in the bass”.

Quilter Fig 1

Barlow does not employ the device of unnotated arpeggiation at all throughout the recording. Instead, he marries harmony and counterpoint by carefully voicing each note within the chord to emphasise the intricate contrapuntal lines across chords. Further to this, is consideration of Quilter’s compositional use of notated arpeggiations. Quilter notates arpeggiations and even, such as in bar 29 and 31, writes in a literal realization of an arpeggiation through use, in bar 29, of an ornamental appoggiatura, and in 31 using semiquavers. These examples evidence his specificity in relation to the type of arpeggiation being used, whether the both hands should be arpeggiated simultaneously, or just the left-hand succeeded by a block chord in the right-hand. Furthermore, Quilter most frequently notates arpeggiations on particularly expressive, climactic points within the music, and for mechanical reasons, chords containing intervals above an octave. These notated arpeggiations pose interpretive questions for performers. For example, if Quilter used the notation in a purposeful way, why would he not notate all the chords he wanted to be arpeggiated? Perhaps it is due to Robert Levin’s (2018, 55:00-55:20) statement “a composer writes down … only those details which are not completely obvious to a well-educated musician of the composer’s own time”. Go, Lovely Rose may simply be notated in the manner that prescribes certain arpeggiations while allowing for interpretive arpeggiations throughout. Analysis of Quilter’s own use of unnotated arpeggiations can inform the way in which he may have expected arpeggiations to have been used by a competent performer of his time.

Quilter’s unnotated arpeggiations arise in bars 6 and 7 (see Figure 2) most notably when appoggiaturas are present. Goddard (1925, quoted in Bansfield, 1985, p.127) notes Quilter, as a performer, is a “magician of the chord of the ninth”, that is, a 9-8 resolution. These appoggiaturas abound in Quilter’s compositions which perhaps result in the frequent arpeggiations by Quilter to highlight these expressive notes. Moreover, these arpeggiations further support the relevant metric beats of bars 6 and 7. Raphael uses portamenti connecting the first five notes of bar 7. These portamenti are used in conjunction with a crescendo to anticipate the highest vocal note encountered so far, E-flat (or E in the recording). An unnotated tenuto, or arguably a short pause, occurs on the E-flat. Both Raphael and Stone use a portamento for expressive purposes on the fall of a minor 6th from E-flat to G. This is supported by the notated arpeggiation in the piano accompaniment, in order to prolong the sonority and to imitate, to some degree, the vocal portamento unobtainable by the piano.

Quilter Fig 2

An asynchronous alignment between Raphael and Quilter emerges in bar 12 and 13 with the vocals being noticeably ahead of the accompaniment. This may be a result of the vocal line being beneath the piano accompaniment. Therefore, in this capacity, the vocal line is the bass. We could, therefore, justify this asynchrony as a dislocation, not of left-hand and right-hand, but with vocals and accompaniment. The vocals are ahead because they are beneath the piano accompaniment, just as the left-hand bass melody may be ahead of the right-hand accompaniment as in Pachmann’s recording of Chopin’s B-minor Prelude (Dodson, 2011).

I have devised a table (see Table 1) showing the length of each bar, for the first 8 bars, in seconds (to the nearest tenth of a second) of each recording. I used Audacity software to take these measurements manually. Further to the time of each bar, I have shown the ‘Absolute Change’ in seconds between one bar to the next and the relative percentage change for comparison between the two recordings. An accurate comparison cannot be made between the absolute changes in seconds of the recordings due to the Stone / Barlow recording generally being a slower tempo (on average an estimated 50 bpm as opposed to 54 bpm for Raphael / Quilter (Reel, 2011)). However, bar 2 and 7 are in a different time signature, 3/2, rather than the more dominant 4/4. In order to still glean comparative data, I divided the length of time of bar 2 by 6, in order to divide the bar into crotchets, then multiplied this by 4. This generated a value which estimates the length of a hypothetical 4/4 bar 2 and 7 which allowed for data to be produced and compared with bars of differing metres.

Quilter Table 1

The results of Table 1 and the following analyses are in line with Da Costa’s (2012, p.252) findings of early twentieth century performers using tempo modification to a greater degree than is allowed, or conceived of, by performers today where “any modification tends to stay within close proximity of the prevailing tempo”. Stone / Barlow’s recording indicated very small changes of tempo between bars with bars 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 falling within a range of 3.9-4.2 seconds. However, the significant tempo change between bar 7 and 8, 40%, creates a greater emphasis due to this device’s absence during the initial lines of the first stanza, only the final two lines showed greater tempo modification. Bar 7 and 8’s significant percentage change is shared also by Raphael / Quilter’s recording which registered a 50% and 58% change respectively. These ritardandi are despite no notated tempo indicator being present. Although the percentage change between the two recordings is noticeably different, the direction of the percentage change is consistent. For example, in bar 6, Raphael / Quilter’s recording showed a 25% decrease in tempo and Stone / Barlow’s a 5% decrease. This may be due to a combination of: ascending melodic and bass lines increasing tension, beginning of a crescendo, comparatively sparse accompaniment or a lead up to the climactic point of the first stanza (E-flat) on the second beat of bar 7.

Performance practice has changed greatly in the 80-year gap in the two recordings, 1934-2014. Deep reflection and study of early 20th century recordings can uncover past expressive devices which may an additional tool for the performer’s expressive toolkit. Critical engagement with these recordings may allow deeper insight into the meaning of the composer’s notation and their expectation regarding its interpretation. This may enliven and inspire new interpretations of music from the past.


Banfield, S. (1985). Sensibility and English Song. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Barlow, S., & Stone, M., (2014). Go, Lovely Rose. On Complete Quilter Songbook, Vol.2 [CD]. North Chailey: Stone Records.

Costa, N.P.D. (2012). Off the Record. New York: Oxford University Press.

Dodson, A. (2011). Expressive asynchrony in a recording of Chopin’s prelude no. 6 in B minor by Vladimir de Pachmann. Music Theory Spectrum, 33 (1), 59-64. doi: 10.1525/mts.2011.33.1.59.

Dodson, A. (2012). Solutions to the “Great nineteenth-century rhythm problem” in Horowitz’s recording of the theme from Schumann’s Kreisleriana, op. 16, no. 2. Music Theory Online, 18 (1), 1-12. Retrieved from

Hold, T. (1978). The Walled-in Garden. Wales: Triad Press.

Langfield, V. (2002). Roger Quilter: His Life and Music. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press.

Quilter, R., & Raphael, M., (2014). Go, Lovely Rose. On Songs by Roger Quilter [CD]. London: The Digital Gramophone.

Reel, R. (2011). Tap for Beats Per Minute. Retrieved from

Robert Levin [John Thwaites]. (2018, May 28). Robert Levin Piano Masterclass [Video file]. Retrieved from

Self, G. (2001). Light Music in Britain since 1870. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Limited.
Quilter, R., (1923). 5 English Love Lyrics: For piano and voice, Op. 24. London: Chappell.

By Connor Gaydon

I am a Music graduate and piano teacher for 5+ years. I have created a range of resources to broaden and deepen the knowledgebase of the Improving Pianists community.