Rely on Dutton not only to keep pushing the boundaries
further out but also to engage artists who are not merely sympathetic
but who bring intense commitment to the task. Not for one moment can
one doubt the advocacy of these three members of the Endymion Ensemble
who revive with new wine these old yet resilient bottles.
Dutton Epoch has done more than any other label to
peel back the layers of neglect and ignorance that have for so long
cloaked British music of the last century. There has already been one
York Bowen disc from them - also well worth getting - CDLX7115. This
second one does not disappoint.
Take the Kreisler dedicated Suite for a start.
You might have expected a salon delicacy (in fact there is some of this
in the dancing Humoresque - part
Dvořák; part Saint-Saëns) but this is predominantly a romantically
aspirant piece. Bowen writes some truly appealing music occupying the
green pastures hemmed in on one side by Tchaikovsky and on the other
by Delius. The Suite ends with a scorchingly virtuosic Allegro
con spirito in which the piano and the violin are well and truly
put through their sparkling Tchaikovskian paces.
Next comes the Cello Sonata - a work dedicated
to Beatrice Harrison who gave the premiere at the Wigmore Hall, with
the composer. The world had moved on from the suite and the language
was now rather more sophisticated but still heatedly passionate. The
hothouse atmosphere does not go as far as Cyril Scott but there is a
new humid luxuriance in the air; Debussy meets Rachmaninov. Also present
is a darker element - one might almost call it malign. The mood is restive
and there is an aggression and attack amid the romance. Several times
I thought of Arnold Bax's cello sonatas and the solo Rhapsodic Ballad
(well recorded by Raphael Wallfisch on Chandos but even better in the
hands of Rohan de Saram on a long gone Pearl LP). If the Great War drove
a deep revetment between the carefree luxury of the Edwardian era and
a new and callous modernity, the Second World War drove the stakes in
yet deeper. Jo Cole and John Talbot have also recorded the Cello Sonata
with equal fervour and this is coupled even more generously with the
cello sonatas by John Foulds and Ernest Walker. The Cole/Talbot disc
is available as BMS-423-CD from Stephen Trowell, 7 Tudor Gardens, Upminster,
Essex RM14 3DE United Kingdom. Phone: 01708 224795.
The 1945 Violin Sonata was premiered on BBC
Radio by the composer with Frederick Grinke. In the 1950s Grinke broadcast
it again this time accompanied by Joseph Weingarten - a tape survives.
Still the language is romantic, turbulent and tonal. The misty Lento
sings irresistibly - a sort of amalgam between Delius and Korngold with
a touch of expressionism to spice things along. The brilliant Tchaikovskian
finale is Mephistophelian, as flashy as Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen
yet as grim as Bax in his Winter Waters and Second Northern
Bowen clearly had no truck with neo-classicism and
the English pastoral was anathema to him. His violin concerto, viola
concerto and four piano concertos should be recorded at the earliest
opportunity. I think we have some major revelations in store.
The present disc will inflame yet more well deserved
interest in this out and out romantic. Highly recommended. More please.