Letís start with the Symphony. Right from the
very first up-drafted 'whump' of the horns this announces itself as
a classic version. It is likely to satisfy those who were weaned on
the Boult recording issued in 1975 on a Lyrita (or in the USA, HNH)
LP. It is fleet of foot without being callous. This is a performance
bright with life yet in the softer moments such as at 3.02 in Allegro
nothing is lost. In fact Lloyd-Jones is at a career peak here with things
really catching fire in a way not always evident in his other Naxos
ventures. Just listen to the rushing attack of the baritonal strings
at 4.39 in the first movement. The Lento displays gentle sensitivity
in every sigh and languid gesture matched with a sure ear for, and control
of, structure. If the harp glissandi are not projected with the lush
relish of the Lyrita team the rest is sheerly touching. Similar delicate
qualities apply to the pizzicato delights of the Vivace which
perhaps rushes the diaphanous colloquy of horn and harp at 3.40. This
was handled with even more mastery by Neville Dilkes in his 1970s EMI
recording with the English Sinfonia. So we come to the chill Sibelian
fastnesses of the finale. This is played with mordantly shivering attack
and no little animus.
The succulent and spry folksy Sinfonietta is
up against Del Mar (Chandos), Hickox (EMI), Beecham (Symposium) and
Boult (Lyrita LP). The same qualities of bull's-eye, split-second attack
and dreamy yearning caught part way between Vaughan Williams and Rachmaninov
are in evidence as they were for the Symphony. I love the way the hee-hawing
horns are caught in the Allegro con brio at 5.20. The pizzicato
dance at 1.29 is caught just as well as for Boult's Lyrita LP recording
made with the LPO in 1968. This is the best of the modern recordings
and it really sounds like a large orchestra in full spate. You might
have read about the work's neo-classical stance but this recording communicates
a work with muscle, sinew and emotional reach; no pale Dumbarton
or emaciated Pulcinella.
No one, Handley included, has yet matched the horn-emphasised
Lyrita recording of the Symphony where every whoop lent an aura to each
orchestral climax and hammer-blow. Naxos come close but that same bloom
is not quite achieved.
Classically informative notes by Lewis Foreman.
I came to this disc with exalted expectations which
have been met. This can stand compare and contrast with the Handley
recording of Chandos. A superb bargain.