Lewis Foreman in his
booklet essay guides the listener through the lives of Potter
and Sterndale Bennett - as with Vaughan Williams please
resist the temptation to hyphenate!
Mr Foreman tells us
that of Potter's pupils at the Royal Academy in London, Sterndale Bennett was the most successful. He was born
in Sheffield but brought up in Cambridge. The Op. 43 symphony was written in splendid isolation
in the 1860s after a quartet of symphonies were completed
by him in the 1830s. This same period also saw the piano
concertos - all recorded years ago on Lyrita and still available
from Harold Moores.
The 1867 Symphony sounds
rather like Schubert with infusions of Weber. It shivers
and bristles with lovely effects including superb antiphonal
dialogue from first and second violins split by Bostock
right and left - Boult and Handley-style. There is some
exciting writing for the horns which looks forward well
into the new century to Stanford's Second Piano Concerto.
In the two outer movements it is also possible to discern
the rather tense and eager romanticism of Parry's neglected
First Symphony. In its first movement it has the harried
overcast angst of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony.
The following Minuetto is relaxed apart from some not very
stern admonitions from the brass. The third movement has
a Dvořákian pastoral lilt which continues with pattering
delight into the Mendelssohn-style Intermezzo. Sturm und
Drang shakes the rafters of the Rondo finale which again
displays Mendelssohnian traits alongside great draughts
of 'the grand manner' from Schubert 9. Indeed the Great
C major is bound to be in your mind as you hear the closing
Sterndale Bennett is
reasonably well known to enthusiasts who may have some of
the previous recordings on Lyrita or Hyperion. Potter is
an unknown quantity except to those in the UK who heard the BBC broadcasts of 1995. That mini-series featured four
of the Potter symphonies in which the Ulster Orchestra were variously conducted by Jerzy Maksymiuk,
John Carewe and John Lubbock..
Potter is not afraid,
in this 1826 symphony, to embrace Beethovenian conflict.
However he quickly contrasts it with an almost Bellinian
bel canto at 3.50 (tr. 6) which he then toys with
fugally before yet more emotional abrasion is let loose.
The andantino grazioso may well remind us of late Haydn
or the first two Beethoven symphonies. It ends with hunting
horn evocations. The finale with its rusticity and playfulness
looks to the example of Beethoven's Pastoral but
with an element of the operatic Wolf Glen.
Both of these nineteenth
century British symphonies are performed with élan and doughty
style. Where ClassicO have lead the way it would not surprise
me if CPO were to follow.
Oh and by the way,
if you were wondering, Vol. 13 was the first two Alan Bush
This is a typically
well documented CD and we are indebted to ClassicO for drawing
the curtains back to let in the light on these two symphonies.
While the most immediately pleasing of the two is certainly
the Sterndale Bennett it is fascinating to hear the Potter.
I hope that there will be more from both composers' symphonic
Just wanted to point out that this is not the
first recording of Potter symphonies
as Rob Barnett seems to suggest
- the Milton Keynes Chamber Orchestra
recorded two of them in the 1980s.
That is one of my favourite disks
(unfortunately now no longer available)
and in my view shows Potter to
be a very good symphonist. There
are very few British composers
that we know about in this period
and I will certainly be getting
this latest release.