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Robin MILFORD (1903-1959)
Fishing by Moonlight (1952) [6.33]
Miniature Concerto in G (1933) [9.09]
Elegiac Meditation (1946-7?) [8.23]
Two Orchestral Interludes (1930) [3.49]
Go, Little book –Suite (1930) [14.55]
Elegy for James Scott, Duke of Monmouth and Buccleuch (1939) [7.06]
Interlude for flute and strings (1944) [5.10]
Festival Suite (1950) [14.27]
Guildhall Strings, Robert Slater (director), Julian Sperry (flute), Julian Milford (piano), Carys Lane (soprano)
Recorded in Christ’s Hospital, Horsham, Sussex on 26-28 May 2003 DDD
HYPERION CDA 67444 [69.48]

Another unjustly neglected English composer! Despite being highly regarded during his life-time (not least by his championing composition teacher, Vaughan Williams), Robin Milford is one of a plethora of original and accomplished voices that has since disappeared into the black void. Yes, that’s the same void where-to unfashionable, un-PC early twentieth century British composers are routinely banished for their horrific sins. And those sins are: English romanticism and lyricism, writing accessible and pleasant music, and tunefulness!

This disc therefore comes as a relief and a joy. It includes a number of Milford’s smaller-scale pieces for strings. He wrote everything from solo song through to a symphony and oratorio. Here these pieces are performed by the proficient Guildhall Strings under their director Robert Salter.

Fishing by Moonlight – probably Milford’s best-known orchestral work - opens the disc. This is a gloriously beautiful and tender little piece for piano and strings, neither without invention nor without passion in that reserved English way. Julian Milford – the composer’s great nephew – is the deft and sensitive soloist in a jewel of a work.

The lively, lyrical and quintessentially English Miniature Concerto in G is then followed by the Elegiac Meditation for viola and string orchestra - intensely wistful, poetic, and nostalgic. The Two Orchestral Interludes are both based around traditional tunes and were originally written as piano duets. Mr John Peel Passes By (the tune of D’ye Ken John Peel) is a jaunty, extremely Warlockian, delicious little piece, which, with its early music overtones, could almost be an excerpt from the Capriol Suite. Mr Ben Johnson’s Pleasure is an inventive setting of Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes.

The suite Go little book takes as its introduction six lines of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Envoy. The seven ensuing scenes each take an aspect of the excerpt (thy garden, thy bin of wine, meat in thy hall, thy wit, thy house and lawns, thy living river and thy nightingale) and bring it to life. All of this is done in a series of brilliant and expressive, sometimes lyrical and flowing, sometimes more sprightly and vigorous, miniature character pieces.

The Elegy for James Scott, Duke of Monmouth and Buccleuch, which follows, has shifting chords straight out of the Tallis Fantasia and is sumptuously lyrical. Again, a beautifully sensitive and perceptive performance. The atmospheric and charming Interlude for flute and strings, with an adroit Julian Sperry as the soloist, precedes the final work – the Festival Suite, written to mark the Festival of Britain in 1951 – another miniature masterpiece.

This is instantly loveable music - witty, engaging, winsome and delectable. The Guildhall Strings are excellent and play characterfully and with a consummate grasp of the spirit of the pieces. All the soloist are of top standard, too. It is wonderful to see good old Hyperion keeping up their outstanding work in promoting these composers and returning to us our lost gems… don’t stop, Hyperion!

Em Marshall

see also review by Rob Barnett

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