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English Idylls
CD 1
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
On hearing the first Cuckoo in Spring
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
Enter Spring
John FOULDS (1880-1939)
'April - England'
Frank BRIDGE
Summer (Tone poem for orchestra)
Percy Aldridge GRAINGER (1882-1961)
Harvest Hymn
Arnold BAX (1883-1953)
November Woods
Frank BRIDGE
Christmas Dance 'Sir Roger de Coverley'
CD 2
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Romanza from Tuba Concerto (arr. cello and orchestra by Vaughan Williams) 
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Romance, Op. 62 (arr. cello and orchestra by Elgar)
Une idylle, Op. 4 No. 1 (arr. cello and organ)
Frederick DELIUS
Two Pieces for Cello and Chamber Orchestra (1930) 1. Caprice 2. Elegy
Percy GRAINGER
Youthful Rapture (1901)
George DYSON (1883-1964)
Fantasy (1935) from Prelude, Fantasy and Chaconne
John IRELAND (1879-1962)
The Holy Boy (1913) (transc. Christopher Palmer)
Sir Henry WALFORD DAVIES (1869-1941)
Solemn Melody (1908) for solo cello, organ and strings
Percy Aldridge GRAINGER
Brigg Fair (transc. Christopher Palmer)
Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)
Invocation for Cello and Orchestra
Cyril SCOTT (1879-1970)
Pastoral and Reel (1927)
Julian Lloyd-Webber (cello), John Lenehan (piano) (Scott), John Birch (organ) (Elgar, Davies)
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields/Sir Neville Marriner
rec. March 1996, The Colosseum, Watford, UK (CD1); January 1994, St. John’s Smith Square, London (CD2). DDD
PHILIPS ELOQUENCE 442 8415 [68:35 + 59:55]



As I have cause to say before Marriner's Delius is undervalued. His On Hearing the First Cuckoo while tense and pushed is warmly cocooned. Bridge's Enter Spring comes from a seasonal anthology first issued in 1998 which also included the Bax and Foulds items included here. The Bridge is not the equal of the Groves version though the recording is much more richly detailed. Even so the sound seems more claustrophobic and enclosed even compared with the deleted Carewe-conducted version on Pearl. April-England by Mancunian Foulds is a wondrous piece but this version is a little earthbound when compared with the Wordsworth conducted one on Lyrita. It's a sensational and terribly undervalued piece which has a hymn-like benediction. Foulds loved hymn tunes - witness his Cello Sonata. Strange how the chaffing strings at 3.35 are so redolent of Tippett and a Blakean gravitas bursts forth at the climax. In that sense the Foulds is akin to Bridge's Enter Spring. On the other hand Bridge's Summer is all warm enchantment and so it is here in Marriner's hands. This one tends to slowness - summer oozes in its veins. The Grainger Harvest Hymn displays the composer's tendency to treacle and Marriner indulges that tendency. Bax's November woods is sumptuously recorded. This is the warmest November Woods on record. Bridge's Roger de Coverley which I learnt from the Britten-conducted version is very pointedly done by Marriner. It makes good use of the wild and boozy subsidiary lines and the counter-pointed interplay again recalls Tippett.
 
The second disc mixes cello and orchestra with cello and organ or piano. It has Julian Lloyd Webber centre-stage. The cello arrangement of the midmost movement of the RVW Tuba Concerto works beamingly well but my how much the orchestral introduction sounds like Finzi; not for the last time either - try also 2:02 onwards! Arrangements for cello have not finished - Elgar's autumnal Romance was written for bassoon and catches some of the half-lights of the cello concerto. The Idylle is soupy salon material with a line similar to pieces perpetrated by Bridge and Glazunov. The Delius Two Pieces - better known as Caprice and Elegy -  take us back to the solo and chamber orchestra. It's a late work dictated to his amanuensis Eric Fenby and here it is beautifully recorded with a fine balance between cello, orchestra and solo harp. The second piece seems rather anonymous but later seems haunted in the manner of Frank Bridge. Grainger's Youthful Rapture was championed by Beatrice Harrison who also played the Delius Cello Sonata (also recorded by Lloyd Webber) and the Two Pieces. Such a pity that Philips, who first issued the second disc, seem to have been averse to recording the whole Dyson work from which the Fantasy was extracted. It is plucked from the Prelude, Fantasy and Chaconne for cello and small orchestra premiered at the Three Choirs in 1935. The whole work has been recorded but only in the version for cello and piano (Continuum) - quite an oversight. It would make a wonderful coupling for the Foulds Cello Concerto and Florent Schmitt's tripartite Introit, récit et congé for cello and full orchestra:  Christopher Palmer provided the arrangements,  used here, of the Ireland The Holy Boy and the unusual Grainger version of Brigg Fair from the one written for choir with solo tenor voice. Holst's Invocation for cello and orchestra is serious and certainly not of the salon. It's a tender rounded thing with some lovely plangent writing for woodwind along the way (1:43). It rises to a climax of almost Bachian eminence lofted yet higher by the hieratic horns. It encompasses a vast range of expression compressed into almost ten minutes. The Scott reappears as more and more music by this composer emerges into the welcoming sunlight. Both the Pastoral and the Reel have that typical harmonic slide and sway we also find in that other visionary John Foulds as in the tone poem Mirage and the Cello Sonata. The Reel develops a fine skirl in the double-stopped manner of the bagpipes. It may in part recall the wild brew to be heard in Grainger's Scottish Strathspey and Reel and in other works by Chisholm and Arnold. The Walford Davies solemn melody is hymn-like.
 
With decent notes this makes a pretty good bargain if you are in the mood for British music with an idyllic tendency.
 
Rob Barnett
 



 


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