Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Arthur BUTTERWORTH (b. 1923)
Three Impressions for Brass (1968) [11.00]
Passacaglia on a Theme of Brahms (1978?) [11.55]
Sinfonia Concertante (2001) [8.57]
Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel (Johannes BRAHMS transc. Arthur BUTTERWORTH) (1975?) [21.05]
Lesley Howie (tenor horn)
Robert Blackburn (baritone horn)
Black Dyke Brass Band/Nicholas J Childs
rec. Morley Town Hall, 2001. DDD
DOYEN Master Series DOYCD130 [61.13]


SPS, 1 Tiverton St, London SE1 6NT. Phone 020 7367 6570; fax: 020 7367 6589.

This is the first Arthur Butterworth CD to be issued since 1998 when ClassicO paired the First Symphony with Ruth Gipps' second. This is also the first all-Butterworth CD ever to be issued. The composer is one of the UK's most masterly, writing potently atmospheric and memorably lyrical music which even now receives hardly any attention. His four orchestral symphonies (1957, 1965, 1979, 1986, 2002) should have been recorded years ago. They are every bit as compelling as the five by Alwyn and the nine by Arnold: dour, gripping, Northern and confident. There is also an Odin symphony for brass which really ought to have been here, if necessary in place of the Handel transcription. Perhaps it is being reserved for a second Butterworth volume with the Caliban scherzo. In any event Odin was written for the Black Dyke folk so we really should hear it from them especially if they are in the sort of superb form in which we hear them in this sequence.

The two Brahms connected works are in one case a highly skilled transcription (the Handel Variations and Fugue) and in the other (the Passacaglia) a brilliant free set of variations on material from the finale of Brahms' Fourth Symphony. No doubt these works were prompted by Butterworth's time as trumpet player with the Scottish National Orchestra and from 1955 to 1962 with Barbirolli in the Hallé. Both works are full of exciting detailing and not a moment of the sort of dullness that you might, in your worst moments, associate with Brahms. Butterworth's and Childs' work here banish fears of congested and curdled textures.

The Three Impressions are grim landscapes rather like the Arnold Cornish Dances shorn of levity. Dark satanic mills glower and spew out smoke. This is a Victorian England of hideous engines and the subjugation of men to the industrial imperative. Alan Bush would have warmed to this music. The music has something of the lamentation of Holst's Egdon Heath and the black energy of Saturn and of Vaughan Williams' Sixth and Seventh Symphonies.

The Sinfonia Concertante is in four movements with the last two linked. It is more symphony, with solo roles for the tenor and the baritone horns, than a concerto. This is once again instinct with disturbing energy and brooding - the voices are from Sibelius's Fourth Symphony and a little from Prokofiev, The tolling bells and menace of the Night Music movement take us again close to Arnold's haunted mine wheelhouses.

Butterworth writes powerful and accessible music full of inventive coups, rippling galvanic energy and rough-hewn drama. Hearing both the Impressions and the Sinfonia makes me lament all the more the absence from this disc of the Odin symphony.

Childs and the band are in award-winning form here with crisp playing, smashing impact and splendid address throughout the range from sopranino to bass.

The helpful and detailed liner notes are by Paul Conway who has done so much to document the history of the symphony in Britain in the Twentieth Century. Doyen did well to commission this piece from him.

A smashingly virtuosic disc with a Brahmsian emphasis in two works neatly offset by a Nordic clarity and volcanic energy in the Sinfonia and Impressions.

Rob Barnett

see also review by Chris Thomas

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