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British Horn Concertos
Gordon JACOB (1895-1984)

Concerto for Horn and Strings (1950s) [20:35]
Malcolm ARNOLD (1921-2006)

Concerto No. 2 for Horn and Strings, Op. 58 (1956) [14:03]
York BOWEN (1884-1961)

Concerto for Horn, string orchestra and timpani (1956) [16:27]
Ruth GIPPS (1921-1999)

Horn Concerto, Op. 58 (1968) [17:11]
Gilbert VINTER (1909-1969)

Hunter’s Moon (1943) [6:22]
David Pyatt (horn)
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaite
rec. Watford Town Hall, 10-21 Jan 1994 (Jacob, Bowen, Arnold); Henry Wood Hall, London, 8-9 Feb 1994 (Gipps, Vinter). DDD
LYRITA SRCD.316 [74:42]




Unlike most of Lyrita’s 2007 issues this one is derived from recordings of performances that have never previously been available in any form. In this it can be grouped with January’s Coates-Wordsworth disc SRCD.213 and the Holst Whitman SRCD.210, February’s Arthur Benjamin Symphony SRCD.314 and March’s Arnold Cooke Symphony No. 1 SRCD.203. More to come including some new Sterndale Bennett overtures, Coleridge Taylor’s violin concerto, Julius Harrison’s Bredon Hill and the William Busch concertos.

Unlike a number of the truly new Lyrita discs the present recordings made some thirteen years ago have not – with the exception of the Arnold - been pipped at the post.

The French horn is the most romantic instrument in the brass family; not that it does not have other facets: buffoon and hero are in there too. Its bloom, its range, its supple agility in the right hands and its warmth - all contribute to the image. British composers have been quick to capitalise on the instrument. Examples of concertos, sonatas and ensemble pieces for the instrument are plentiful. This valuable anthology draws on that heritage and largely from the bountiful 1950s. A decade later and various horn concertos by British composers were plumbing the deeps of dodecaphony and atonality but the present concertos are stalwarts who naturally looked to the springs of tonality and melody.

David Pyatt makes the most of his opportunities. These are not works for shrinking lilies and he is assertively recorded with a potent sound image catching every nuance of horn tone.

The disc opens with the Jacob concerto which instantly refutes any suggestions that this phenomenally industrious composer was a purveyor only of gebrauchsmusik. There are said to be nineteen concertos in total. Of the ones I have heard a number fall into this romantic category which in this case slots neatly into the blended Moeran-RVW style. The First Viola Concerto is also deeply moving. The present three movement work is a delight with the first chatteringly vigorous with chansonnier asides, the second ruminative in a faintly bleached Sibelian way and the finale rollicking and explosive without being at all beery.

This makes a persuasive prelude to the appearance in April 2007 of SRCD.315 with Gordon Jacob’s two war-time Symphonies in recordings by LPO/Barry Wordsworth. Comparisons will then need to be made with a ClassicO CD of Symphony No. 2.

The Arnold was written for Dennis Brain and is stylistically more personal – a definite identity profile is asserted. David Pyatt’s horn is given unmistakable prominence and the playing and artistry stands up well to the unflinchingly close focus. The horn tone is in fruity and forwardly full bloom. A second movement Andantino Grazioso has those sinuously slalom slides in the strings as well as a characteristically romantic Pavane-style lament of a tune – in fact the Ravel Pavane could easily have been part of the inspiration. There’s plenty of competition for Pyatt but nothing untoward especially as the no other CD offers such a coupling or anything like it. There’s Alan Civil on a long deleted composer-conducted radio broadcast (3 March 1969, 75th Birthday release - BBC Radio Classics 1 565691817) where his sound is squat, moist and fruity as it is in his late-1980s re-recording for EMI 0946 3 70563 2 5. Richard Watkins in the Decca Universal Arnold Edition box on 4765343 is a shade drier of tone than Civil or Pyatt.

Like the other three horn concertos here the York Bowen is in three movements. Bowen was a student of the Royal Academy which found more in the Russian Nationalist and French schools than the students of the RCM. Bowen’s swooning romanticism is most effective and clearly sincere. The Tchaikovskian manner may be familiar but the inspiration is genuine and most eloquent and there are high spirits such as we know from the bubbling Strauss Horn Concerto in the finale.

The Gipps is a known and very poetic work. It had been revived by the BBC in a studio performance by Frank Lloyd with the BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra conducted by George Tzipine. The broadcast took place on 20 January 1983. Both the Moeran and RVW haunt the pastoral pages of the first movement and the central movement is blithe blown by warm sweet-breathed zephyrs. The finale is vigorous, chattery and delightfully ingratiating.

It’s also well worth looking out Gipps’ Symphony No. 2 on ClassicO. Such a pity that Lyrita did not offer John Pritchard the chance to record Gipps’ Fourth Symphony when he was active recording Rawsthorne for them with the LPO. He was one of the few conductors other than Gipps who was prepared to tackle the Gipps symphonies and he did so with the BBCSO in May 1983 for her Fourth Symphony. It is way past time that we had a complete cycle of her concertos and symphonies.

Vinter’s name is not widely known in classical circles. He was born at Peaslake, near Guildford in Surrey on 4 May 1909. He began his musical education as a chorister at Lincoln Cathedral then attended the Royal Military School of Music at Kneller Hall and the Royal Academy where he was appointed professor (bassoon) in 1938. He joined the BBC Military Band in 1930 and served as a bassoonist in the BBC Wireless Military Band and the LPO. He enlisted in RAF in 1940 as member of the RAF Central Band and from 1941 to 1945 he became Bandmaster, Flying Training Command. Released from RAF in November 1945, he formed the International Light Orchestra. He succeeded Rae Jenkins as Conductor of the BBC Midland Light Orchestra based at Birmingham in 1946 and guest conducted with various European radio orchestras. He was well respected in the field of light music and was also an authority on folk music. His works include forty original compositions spanning opera through to film music, and about two hundred arrangements. Perhaps the finest of the works is the powerful and dramatic cantata The Trumpets drawing on trumpet references in the Bible. The movements are Blazon, Destruction, Dedication and Revelation. The work has been commercially recorded twice. The first came from HMV in November 1966 with Owen Brannigan and the All Star Brass conducted by the composer. Pye recorded it in March 1969 conducted by Geoffrey Brand with Michael Langdon and the Black Dyke Mills. The work receives performances still and in the 1980s it was conducted by Maurice Handford. Vinter's recreations included country life and natural history. He spent his last years at St. Mabyn, Trethevy, Tintagel, Cornwall where he died on 10 October 1969.

Quite apart from a single opera of which I have no details there are the ballet: Krakov Legend (1965), the Concertino for clarinet and orchestra; Spring Carol, Symphonic Suite for piano and orchestra; Concerto Burlando for saxophone and orchestra (1964); Piaculum for soprano and orchestra (1963). Among the orchestral works: Suite, Latin America; Celtic Lilt; Divertimento for string orchestra; Tularecito (Little Frog); Overture, Mr Knowall (1960); Grecian Impressions (1962); Overture, The Tearaway (1963); Brazilian Rhapsody (1965); Overture, To A New Venture (1965); English Rhapsody (1965); Fête Basque (1965); Little Island Rhapsody; Suite, New Lamps for Old. He was much better known in the brass band world and the following brass band works should be noted: The Dover Coach; Salute to Youth; TUC Centenary March; Vizcaya; Symphony of Marches (1963); Rhapsody, Simon Called Peter (1963); Variation on a Ninth (1964, National championship, GUS Footwear/Stanley Boddington); Triumphant Rhapsody (1965, National championship, Fairey Band/Leonard Lamb); John O'Gaunt (1968, British Open Championship, Black Dyke Mills/Geoffrey Brand) James Cook, Circumnavigator (1969, first perf. British Open Championship 1974, Black Dyke Mills/Roy Newsome); Spectrum (1969, British Open Championship, Grimethorpe Colliery/George Thompson). For small brass ensembles there are an Elegy and Rondo for brass quartet; Fancy's Knell for brass quartet; Alla Burlesca for brass quartet;

Gilbert Vinter’s poetic lollipop Hunter’s Moon was written while the composer was in Torquay as a member of the wartime Torquay Municipal Orchestra. It was originally to have been called Diana of the Chase but this title was felt to be too ponderous. The work was premiered by John Burden – for whom it was written - in Torquay in 1942. It’s a compact and mercurial work. The chase can be fairly sedate at times. A harp-underpinned romantic interlude allows time for revelling in reflection before a Delian sigh takes us back to the humorously determined march. If not half-cut we know from the juicy virtuosic slides that the Tam-Beckus hero-player has had a drop or two. The stuff of Classic FM and only 6:22. Let’s have some more Vinter. How about that Concerto Burlando?

The very full and fluent notes are by British music doyen Lewis Foreman – always very good value.

Rob Barnett

From Jeffrey Davis (Bulletin Board):-

Have just been reading this very informative review of British Horn Concertos on Lyrita, in which Rob mentions Ruth Gipps Symphony No 4. Through a kindly contact via this Bulletin Board I have a copy of John Pritchard performing this with the BBC SO, although the work, as far as I know, has never been released on LP or CD. Frankly, the work is stunning - a wonderfully life-affirming and inspiriting score. All the works by this composer that I have been heard have been great (ie Symphony No 2 on Classico) but Symphony No 4 is, by all accounts, her masterpiece. I find myself playing it over and over again. Dutton are you listening? As Rob said, we need a complete cycle of symphonic works by this fine and largely unknown composer.

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