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Within a Dream - A Celebration of the Artistry of Richard Hickox
Various Artists/Richard Hickox
Full track-listing appears at the foot of this review
CHANDOS CHAN 10568(2) [79:56 + 73:24]

 

Experience Classicsonline


 
The sudden death of Richard Hickox at the age of just sixty in 2008 was a loss that was widely and sharply felt within the musical world. At the time it was evident, from the tributes paid to him, that his relationship with Chandos Records went way beyond the usual artistic and contractual links between a musician and a record company. Now Chandos has issued this handsome two-disc set to commemorate one of their most prolific artists – indeed, perhaps their most prolific artist of all.
 
There’s another and very important point to this release for it is part of the launch of the Richard Hickox Foundation and royalties from the sale of these discs will be donated by Chandos to the Foundation. The Foundation’s goals are more fully described in the quite lavish booklet accompanying these discs but among them a couple caught my eye in particular for they are goals which, if achieved, will continue two crucial strands of Hickox’s work and form the most fitting legacy possible. One goal is to encourage the performance of British music outside the UK, something that Richard Hickox did throughout his career. The other is to commission and financially support recordings of neglected music by British composers – Holst, Leighton and Stanford are mentioned. If the Foundation can achieve that – and one suspects that Chandos may be willing collaborators – then Hickox’s work will truly live on for he was a real trailblazer on disc for British music. That’s one facet of his career that’s nicely illustrated in this set.
 
Those responsible for planning this release must have had a gargantuan task for Hickox made nearly three hundred recordings for Chandos alone – and made many more for other labels as well before becoming an exclusive Chandos artist. I’m sure everyone would have their own list of recordings that could have been included. However, not the least successful aspect of the choices made is that virtually every significant artistic relationship that the conductor made during his career is represented. Thus we hear from the London Symphony Orchestra and its Chorus; from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales; from Australian Opera and from the Spoleto Festival. The Royal Opera House is represented, as is the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. And last, but by no means least, two ensembles that Hickox himself founded, Collegium Musicum 90 and the City of London Sinfonia, take their rightful places.
 
This is not the occasion for a conventional review. Let’s just take as read, if we may, the artistic excellence and the top quality recorded sound that’s a feature of every track on these discs. Although a few of the recordings were new to me most are ones that, over the years, I’ve either bought or reviewed. I also found that some brought back significant personal memories.
 
Two of the items recalled live performances I’d attended. I was present in Chester Cathedral when Richard Hickox gave the world première of Tavener’s powerful We Shall See Him as He Is. A few days later Hickox and the same artists gave a second performance, at the Royal Albert Hall, London, as part of the 1992 Henry Wood Promenade Concerts. Chandos recorded that second performance and an extract is included here (CD2, track 10), demonstrating not least the extraordinary singing of Patricia Rosario in one of several roles that Tavener has created for her over the years.
 
An even stronger memory is associated with the excerpt from Vaughan Williams’s Pilgrim’s Progress (CD2, track 5). I was fortunate enough to attend a semi-staged performance that Hickox and Royal Opera forces gave in Symphony Hall, Birmingham around the time that this studio recording was made. It was an unforgettable occasion with Hickox directing a marvellous performance. Gerald Finley is superb in the title role and I hope this excerpt will encourage collectors who haven’t got the complete recording to rectify that omission. Re-hearing this made me all the more cross with myself that I missed the further performances that Hickox gave in London of this Vaughan Williams masterpiece just a couple of years ago.
 
Among other highlights, we have the last section of Hickox’s superb recording of War Requiem (CD 1, track 10) and the excerpt is substantial enough to demonstrate what a wonderful trio of soloists appear on this recording and that the Chandos recorded sound is exceptionally fine even by the company’s usual high standards. There’s more Vaughan Williams in the shape of the slow movement of the ‘London’ Symphony. Hickox famously made this recording of the composer’s original version of the score and though it was intended at the time that this should be the only time RVW’s first thoughts were to be heard in the modern era the success of the recording and the interest it generated was such that further performances have been sanctioned since then. For myself I’m torn. I am glad to have the chance to hear extra music by RVW yet hearing the extended original score confirms – for me, at any rate – that he was wise to revise and tauten the score into the form we know today. Nonetheless, I salute and am grateful for the enterprise of Richard Hickox in making the original score available – and in such a fine performance.
 
Away from twentieth-century English music we can sample Hickox’s skills in the classical repertoire. The finale of Haydn’s Symphony No 102 (CD1, track 5) is sprightly and delightful. I was also pleased to find an excerpt from one of Hummel’s Masses. I bought this very disc when it first appeared and was delighted at the new discovery I made as a result. Several tracks show Richard Hickox’s abilities in the opera house and once again we see in the Menotti excerpt (CD 2, track 3), his willingness to stray from the beaten track.
 
The one regret that I have is that one of his strongest recorded achievements is not included, namely his very fine complete set of the Rubbra symphonies. However, it would have been impossible to represent Hickox’s full achievements on CD on just two discs.
 
The closing item is both poignant and appropriate: the final section of Songs of Sunset by Delius. This comes from an award-winning disc – one of many by Hickox that were recognised through awards as well as strong sales. The verses by Ernest Dowson that Delius set include the line that gives the title to this collection. It makes for a very fitting conclusion to this handsome tribute to a versatile and much-missed musician.
 

John Quinn
 

Track Listing
 
CD1 [79:56]
Frank Bridge (1879-1941)
1 Seascape. Allegro ben moderato 7:14
from The Sea (CHAN 10012)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
 
Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)
2 'Come along, darling, come follow me quick!' 2:28
Sid and Nancy's Duet from Act II, Scene 2 of Albert Herring, Op. 39 (CHAN 10036(2))
Roderick Williams baritone
Pamela Helen Stephen mezzo-soprano
James Gilchrist tenor
City of London Sinfonia
 
Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
3 Lento - Allegro risoluto 15:01
from A London Symphony (Symphony No. 2)
Original 1913 version (CHAN 9902/CHSA 5001)
London Symphony Orchestra
 
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
4 'O rest in the Lord' 3:30
The Angel's Air from Part II of Elijah, Op. 70 (CHAN 8774/75)
Linda Finnie contralto
London Symphony Orchestra
 
Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
5 Finale. Presto 4:51
from Symphony No. 102 in B flat major (CHAN 0662)
Collegium Musicum 90
 
Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
6 Lento - Allegro - Grandioso (poco largamente) 12:10
from Symphony No. 1 in A flat major, Op. 55 (CHAN 5049)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
 
Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904)
7 'O moon in the velvet heavens' 8:12
Rusalka's Invocation to the Moon from Rusalka, Op. 114, B 203 (CHAN 10449(3))
Cheryl Barker soprano
Bruce Martin bass
Anne-Marie Owens mezzo-soprano
Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra
 
Percy Grainger (1882-1961)
8 Molly on the Shore [British Folk Music Setting No. 1] 4:00
based on two Cork reels (CHAN 9499)
City of London Sinfonia
 
Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778-1837)
9 'Gloria in excelsis Deo' 3:35
from Gloria from Mass in D major, Op. 111 (CHAN 0681)
Collegium Musicum 90
 
Benjamin Britten
10 Libera me (extract) 17:56
from War Requiem, Op. 66 (CHAN 8983/84)
Heather Harper soprano
Philip Langridge tenor
John Shirley-Quirk bass-baritone
Choristers of St Paul`s Cathedral
Roderick Elms organ
London Symphony Chorus
London Symphony Chamber Orchestra
London Symphony Orchestra
 
CD2 [73:24]
 
Gustav Holst (1874-1934)
1 Dance of the Spirits of Fire. Allegro moderato - Andante 3:37
from the Ballet from The Perfect Fool, Op. 39 (CHSA 5069)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
 
Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
2 'Et incarnatus est' 6:39
from Credo from Mass in E flat major, D 950 (CHAN 0750)
Susan Gritton soprano
Mark Padmore tenor
James Gilchrist tenor
Collegium Musicum 90
 
Gian Carlo Menotti (1911-2007)
3 'To this we've come' 8:38
from Act II, Scene 2 of The Consul (CHAN 9706(2))
Susan Bullock soprano
Malin Fritz contralto
Herbert Eckhoff baritone
Victoria Livengood mezzo-soprano
Spoleto Festival Orchestra
 
Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006)
4 Allegro 12:05
from Symphony No. 1, Op. 22 (CHAN 9335)
London Symphony Orchestra
 
Ralph Vaughan Williams
5 The Pilgrim in Prison 11:30
Act III, Scene 2 from The Pilgrim's Progress (CHAN 9625(2))
Gerald Finley baritone
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
 
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
6 'Dies irae, dies illa' - 'Tuba mirum spargens sonum' 3:45
from Dies irae from Messa da Requiem (CHAN 9490)
London Symphony Chorus
London Symphony Orchestra
 
William Lloyd-Webber (1914-1982)
7 Invocation 3:14
(CHAN 9595)
Skaila Kanga harp
City of London Sinfonia
 
Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924)
8 'The Old Superb' 3:00
from Songs of the Sea, Op. 91 (CHSA 5043)
Gerald Finley baritone
BBC National Chorus of Wales
BBC National Orchestra of Wales
 
Edward Elgar
9 'Praise to His Name!' - 'Take me away' 4:38
from Part II of The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38 (CHAN 8641/42)
Felicity Palmer mezzo-soprano
Arthur Davies tenor
London Symphony Orchestra
 
John Tavener (b. 1944)
10 Ikon VI 6:03
from We Shall See Him as He Is (CHAN 9128)
John Mark Ainsley tenor
Patricia Rozario soprano
BBC Welsh Chorus
Britten Singers
Chester Festival Chorus
BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra
 
Benjamin Britten
11 'Grimes!' 5:26
Mad Scene from Act III, Scene 2 of Peter Grimes, Op. 33 (CHAN 9447/48)
Philip Langridge tenor
London Symphony Chorus
London Symphony Orchestra
 
Frederick Delius (1862-1934)
12 'They are not long, the weeping and the laughter' 3:28
from Songs of Sunset (CHAN 9214)
Sally Burgess mezzo-soprano
Bryn Terfel baritone
Waynflete Singers
Southern Voices
Bournemouth Symphony Chorus
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

 


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