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The Story of British Classical Music
Anonymous c.1300
Thomas gemma Cantuarie – Thomas cessum in Doveria [2:11]
Orlando Consort
Anonymous 15th century
Ave Maria [2:45]
Oxford Camerata/Summerly
John DUNSTABLE (c.1390-1453)
Veni Sancte Spiritus – Veni Creator [6:55]
Tonus Peregrinus/Pitts
Robert CARVER (c.1490 - after 1546)
Missa Dum sacrum mysterium
Sanctus: beginning [2:52]
Cappella Nova/Tavener
William CORNYSH (d.1523)
Ah Robin, gentle Robin [2:15]
Oxford Camerata/Summerly
John TAVERNER (c.1490-1545)
Missa Gloria tibi trinitas [2:56]
The Sixteen/Christophers
Thomas TALLIS (c.1505-1585)
Salvator mundi [3:53]
Oxford Camerata/Summerly
William BYRD (c.1540-1623)
Ye sacred Muses [3:46]
Catherine King, (mezzo)/Rose Consort of Viols
Thomas WEELKES (c.1575-1623)
As Vesta was from Latmos hill descending [3:46]
Oxford Camerata/Summerly
John BULL (1562/3-1628)
Pavan St Thomas Wake! [2:30]
Joseph Payne (harpsichord)
John DOWLAND (1563-1626)
In darkness let me dwell [3:35]
Steven Rickards (counter-tenor), Dorothy Linell (lute)
Orlando GIBBONS (1583-1625)
Hosanna to the son of David [2:50]
Oxford Camerata/Summerly
Thomas TOMKINS (1572-1656)
Above the stars my Saviour dwells [3:50]
Red Byrd/Rose Consort of Viols
William LAWES (1602-1645)
Consort Set a 5 in A minor: Fantazy II [2:51]
Rose Consort of Viols/Timothy Roberts, organ
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Dido and Aeneas Act 1
Overture, 'Shake the cloud', Ah! Belinda, I am press'd [5:50]
Kyrn Amps (soprano) (Dido)/Anna Crookes (soprano) (Belinda)
Scholars Baroque Ensemble
Charles AVISON (1709-1770)
Concerto in D major Op. 6 No. 4
Andante, Allegro assai [3:34]
Avison Ensemble/Beznosiuk
William BOYCE (1711-1779)
Symphony in F major, Op. 2 No. 4
Allegro [3:27]
Aradia Ensemble/Mallon
John FIELD (1782-1837)
Nocturne No. 10 in E minor [3:09]
Benjamin Frith (piano)
William Sterndale BENNETT (1816-1875)
Impromptu in F sharp minor, Op. 12 No. 3 [3:21]
llona Prunyi (piano)
Samuel Sebastian WESLEY (1810-1876)
Wash me throughly    [4:04]
Emily Gray, soprano/Jeffrey Makinson (organ)
Manchester Cathedral Choir/Stokes
Arthur Seymour SULLIVAN (1842-1900)
The Yeomen of the Guard, Overture [5:23]
Royal Ballet Sinfonia/Penny
Hubert PARRY (1848-1918)
I was glad [4:45]
Scholars Baroque Ensemble
Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924)
The blue bird [3:44]
Carys-Anne Lane (soprano)
Oxford Camerata/Summerly
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Symphony No.2 in E flat major
Rondo, Presto  [8:09]
BBC Philharmonic Orchestra/Edward Downes
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
A Song Before Sunrise [5:23]
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Lloyd-Jones]
Arnold BAX (1883-1953)
Country-Tune            [2:14]
Ashley Wass (piano)
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Job - A Masque for Dancing
Galliard of the Sons of the Morning, Altar Dance and Heavenly Pavane [5:16]
English National Philharmonia/David Lloyd-Jones
Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)
The Planets: Uranus, the Magician [6:00]
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones
William WALTON (1902-1983)
Violin Concerto: Presto capriccioso alla napolitana [6:21]
Dong-Suk Kang (violin)
English Northern Philharmonia/Paul Daniel
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Winter Words
Proud Songsters, At the Railway Station, Upway, Before Life and After [6:40]
Philip Langridge (tenor); Steuart Bedford (piano)
Michael TIPPETT (1905-1998)
A Child of Our Time, Pt. II
And a time came, Away with them, Where they could,
We cannot have them, And the boy's mother,
0 my son!, Nobody knows [3:16]
Faye Robinson (soprano); Sarah Walker (mezzo); Jon Garrison (tenor); John Cheek (bass)
City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus & Orchestra/Michael Tippett
Malcolm ARNOLD (b.1921)
English Dances, Set I No.1: Andantino [2:51]
Queensland Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Penny
Peter MAXWELL DAVIES (b.1934)
Naxos Quartet No. 2: Allegro [4:45]
Maggini Quartet
John TAVENER (b.1944)
As one who has slept [4:18]
Choir of St John's College, Cambridge/Robinson
Judith WEIR (b.1954)
Piano Concerto: The Sweet Primeroses [4:31]
William Howard (piano)/Schubert Ensemble
Colin MATTHEWS (b.1946)
Pluto, the Renewer [7:01]
Royal Scottish National Chorus & Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones
NAXOS 8.558193-94 [76:33 + 77:08]
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All tracks are taken from existing recordings. The skeleton of the Early Music section hinges on extant Naxos recordings, particularly of the Oxford Camerata under Jeremy Summerly. The remainder of the two-disc set is taken from the Naxos catalogue apart from Judith Weir's piece. This said, one has to admire that all the pieces are of good performances, both from the playing and technical point of view. What I do ask myself is, to whom is the set pitched? It is good to have examples of composers rarely found in one's library, but to the untrained ear I suggest that there is much commonality in style of a number of the composers of Early music. I certainly am interested in mentally analysing chord structure when a musical scene is evolving, but I suggest that this compilation is likely to be mostly of interest to music students at undergraduate level.
A truly excellent and generously presented booklet (100pp.) is provided with an outer box to the jewel case. Its content by Anthony Burton is excellent and provides broad developmental coverage. Haydn and Mendelssohn have been omitted on the grounds that they were not born British. Of particular interest to me is mention of those unfairly neglected composers of the 19th Century like Balfe, Vincent Wallace, MacCunn, Macfarren, Mackenzie, Thomas, William Wallace and Coleridge-Taylor. Sadly, no tracks are provided for any of these composers, presumably because no existing recordings can be found. It is a pity that Naxos has not commissioned a studio session to fill in such milestone gaps.
It must have been a difficult task to decide what to put into the programme and what to leave out and I hope it was a committee decision. Even so, I find the weighting towards modern composers unnecessarily heavy and unfair. Our current fashion to actively promote an atonal school on the radio and in the colleges does not impress: and this is not Luddite thinking. (A Guardian article, now two years old, asked which of the modern composers might be remembered in a hundred years' time since over-sophistication and a lack of melody will not make them memorable.) I would suggest that inclusion of composers still alive and whose works have not had to stand the test of time is pretentious and casts an unfair judgement on other contemporary composers not included. Why Davies, Tavener, Weir and Colin Matthews are exalted for inclusion when Curtis, Doyle, Gowers and David Matthews, some commissioned for HM Queen Mother's 1990 Birthday concert have not been mentioned? Disregarding all contemporary composers would have provided room to expand on noticeable omissions.
Someone picking up this set will think they are picking up a set that will include examples of those vignettes of rural 'Constable' Britain. Where are Moeran, German, Quilter, Coates, Wood, Lloyd, Duncan and Binge for example? The Holst choice of 'Uranus' from his The Planets is disappointing: I should have expected 'Jupiter' because at least it contains the typically English hymn, 'I vow to thee my country'. Was the fashioning of the programme dictated, principally, by the Naxos catalogue, I wonder?
Highlights in the set are the Sterndale Bennett, Parry (no Jerusalem, 1916, nearly our national Anthem), Delius and Bax. Perhaps I expected the Britten's Sea Interludes to have been used as a firm representation of Englishness. The duration of pieces by Elgar and the generally unknown Matthews are long, while a full page photo and front cover image is unfairly devoted to Britten as one of the three best British composers of all time.
Raymond Walker




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