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Lyrita Fiftieth Anniversary boxed sets - 50 legendary recordings

Lyrita - Celebrating Fifty Years devoted to British Music - Set One
CD 1 [73:53]
William ALWYN Symphonic Prelude - The Magic Island - LPO/Alwyn [10:11]
Malcolm ARNOLD English Dances - Set 2 - LPO/Arnold [9:49]
Bach orch. Henry WOOD Toccata and Fugue in D Minor - LPO/Braithwaite [9:49]
Granville BANTOCK
Russian Scenes - LPO/Wordsworth [14:13]
Arnold BAX Northern Ballad No.1 - LPO/Boult [10:09]
Arthur BENJAMIN Overture to an Italian Comedy - RPO/Fredman [6:17]
William Sterndale BENNETT
Caprice in E - Malcolm Binns (piano) LPO/Braithwaite [13:17]
CD 2 [75:21]
Lennox BERKELEY Serenade for Strings - LPO/Berkeley [13:14]
Arthur BLISS
Adam Zero - Suite - excerpt - LSO/Bliss [8:53]
Frank BRIDGE
Suite for String Orchestra - LPO/Boult [20:50]
William BUSCH Cello Concerto (II) Raphael Wallfisch (cello) - RPO/Handley [6:51]
Geoffrey BUSH Overture - Yorick - NPO/Handley [8:30]
George BUTTERWORTH A Shropshire Lad Rhapsody - LPO/Boult [8:38]
Eric COATES
From Meadow to Mayfair Suite (excerpt) - NPO/Boult [8:14]
CD 3 [74:28]
Samuel COLERIDGE-TAYLOR Valse de la Reine - LPO/Wordsworth [4:32]
Arnold COOKE Jabez and The Devil - Suite - LPO/Braithwaite [18:02]
Frederick DELIUS The Walk to the Paradise Garden - LPO/Fredman [10:53]
Gerald FINZI Eclogue Peter Katin (piano) - NPO/Handley [10:32]
John FOULDS Mantra of Bliss - LPO/Wordsworth [13:06]
Cecil Armstrong GIBBS Fancy Dress - Dance Suite - RPO/Joly [17:20]
CD 4 [67:58]
Ruth GIPPS Horn Concerto - David Pyatt (horn) LPO/Braithwaite [17:14]
Patrick HADLEY
One Morning in Spring - LPO/Boult [3:56]
Alun HODDINOTT Welsh Dances Set 2 - NYOW/Davison [9:04]
Gustav HOLST
Japanese Suite - LSO/Boult [11:01]
Herbert HOWELLS Merry-Eye - NPO/Boult [8:52]
William HURLSTONE
Variations on a Hungarian Air - LPO/Braithwaite [10:36]
John IRELAND
The Forgotten Rite - Prelude - LPO/Boult [7:05]
rec. 1966-2007. ADD/DDD
LYRITA SRCD.2337 [4 CDs: 73:53 + 75:21 + 74:28 + 67:58]

Lyrita - Celebrating Fifty Years devoted to British Music - Set Two
CD 1 [67:46]
Gordon JACOB Symphony No.1 (I) - LPO/Wordsworth [10:08]
Daniel JONES
Dance Fantasy - BBCWSO/Thomson [7:43]
John JOUBERT Symphony No.1 (IV) - LPO/Handley [9:56]
Constant LAMBERT
Music for Orchestra - LPO/Wordsworth [13:17]
Walter LEIGH Concertino for Harpsichord and Strings - Trevor Pinnock (harpsichord) - LPO/Braithwaite [9:29]
George LLOYD Symphony No.4 (I) - PO/Downes [17:08]
CD 2 [77:51]
Elizabeth MACONCHY Music for Strings - LPO/Wordsworth [18:23]
William MATHIAS
Sinfonietta - NYOW/Davison [13:09]
E. J. MOERAN Rhapsody No.2 - LPO/Boult [13:18]
Hubert PARRY
Symphonic Variations - LSO/Boult [12:51]
Alan RAWSTHORNE
Symphonic Studies - LPO/Pritchard [20:02]
CD 3 [79:13]
Cyril ROOTHAM Symphony in C minor (IV) - LPO/Handley [7:24]
Edmund RUBBRA Symphony No.4 (I) - PO/Del Mar [13:04]
Cyril SCOTT Early One Morning - John Ogdon (piano) LPO/Herrmann [14:48]
Charles V. STANFORD Irish Rhapsody No.4 - LPO/Braithwaite [18:52]
Robert STILL Symphony No.3 (II) - LSO/Goossens [11:27]
Phyllis TATE
London Fields - LPO/Wordsworth [13:05]
CD 4 [73:04]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Tallis Fantasia - LPO/Boult [16:16]
William WALTON Music for Children - LPO/Walton [13:15]
Peter WARLOCK An Old Song - LPO/Boult [5:56]
Grace WILLIAMS
Ballads for Orchestra - BBCWSO/Handley [17:10]
Malcolm WILLIAMSON
Santiago de Espada - RLPO/Groves [6:32]
William WORDSWORTH Symphony No.3 (II) - LPO/Braithwaite [13:46]
rec. 1966-2007. ADD/DDD
LYRITA SRCD.2338 [4 CDs: 67:46 + 77:51 + 79:13 + 73:04]

Experience Classicsonline



What’s the scheme here? The idea is to offer a single substantial orchestral track for the majority of composers represented in the Lyrita catalogue. Across these 50 plus tracks whole works are presented alongside eight single movements extracted from larger works: symphonies or concertos. Across the two sets composers are presented alphabetically: Set 1: Alwyn - Ireland; Set 2: Jacob - Wordsworth. Each set is available separately and will sell for £24.99 apiece (MusicWeb price £18 post-free worldwide). 
You can sometimes argue with the selection but overall the right note has been struck - right and bold … or at least it has once the decision was made to choose two 4 CD sets and restrict the choice to orchestral works. I note that Holbrooke is not included but there had to be some omissions to stay within the practical bounds of the project.

In Set One strong choices are made time after time. Alwyn’s Magic Island is in fact Prospero’s island - from The Tempest. The English Dances beguile and enchant. They are drawn from an LP and then from an extended CD which found Lyrita orchestral recording standards at their utter peak. The Russian Scenes are well done although ultimately they are a collection of exotic postcards and dances. The Benjamin Overture is a playful piece in the manner of the lighter examples by Barber and Bax. It comes as no surprise to discover that it was used as the overture to Benjamin’s opera Prima Donna. Berkeley’s crisp Serenade for Strings is presumably authoritative with the composer at the helm. Bliss conducting a suite from his Adam Zero seems underwhelming as music and as a performance - Handley’s version is much better. The delightful Bridge Suite for Strings is lovingly done by Boult. Similarly sumptuous and achingly poignant is A Shropshire Lad. Finzi’s Eclogue, Howells’ Merry-Eye and Hadley’s One Morning in Spring speak for themselves. The Forgotten Rite by John Ireland is a subtle, poetic and completely convincing piece. It’s interesting that this first set has only one bleeding chunk from a larger piece and that is the second movement of Busch’s Cello Concerto. The Cello Concerto is a strong work and makes quite a discovery among the rich crop of new Lyritas in 2008. Although issued on CD in the early 1990s the Foulds Mantras - of which we here have the Mantra of Bliss - is amongst the most radical and impressive. Then again Foulds was an extraordinary composer whose significance is international. Light music is represented by shapely performances of Coates’ From Meadow to Mayfair, Gibbs’ Fancy Dress and the Coleridge Taylor Valse. Fredman’s reading of the famous Delius Walk is to be treasured. He would have made an estimable Song of the High Hills had the opportunity been offered. Lyrita are the only label to provide Holst’s tangy Japanese Suite and, audaciously enough, it’s here in this set. From the 19th century comes Sterndale Bennett’s Caprice and the remarkable Variations on a Hungarian Air by Hurlstone. Henry Wood’s orchestration of the Bach Toccata and Fugue in D Minor was originally presented under a pseudonym, Paul Klenovsky. Oh how those Russian names legitimise British talent! Gipps’ Horn Concerto is played by the very talented David Pyatt. Would that Lyrita had also recorded her other concertos. Don’t forget her works for Clarinet (1940); Viola (Jane Grey Fantasy, 1940), Oboe (1941), Violin (1943), Piano (1948), Violin and Viola (1957) and Contra-Bassoon (Leviathan) and the five symphonies (1942, 1945, 1965, 1972, 1982). Names much associated with Cheltenham are represented by the Yorick overture, the Jabez and The Devil and the only recently vinyl-liberated Hoddinott Welsh Dances (Set 2).

Set Two has a higher quotient of movements extracted from larger works. This is always an unsatisfactory approach but there was no alternative once Lyrita had chosen to represent composers in this way. Thus we have the finales of the impressive Joubert Symphony and the clean-limbed masculine energy of the Rootham First Symphony. Bewail the fact that Lyrita and Handley never got around to recording Rootham’s Second Symphony - once studio-broadcast by Handley with a BBC Scottish contingent. Rubbra could have been instanced by the cuttingly atmospheric Soliloquy for cello and orchestra but instead we have a movement from his toweringly potent Fourth Symphony which in its cogency and emotional impact overshadows most of the RVW symphonies. Still’s Third Symphony is there too - represented somewhat eccentrically by the originally Saga-produced recording of the outcast Goossens conducting the LSO. Jacob’s wartime First Symphony is also referenced as is Wordsworth’s Third. George Lloyd’s Fourth Symphony - an expiation of horrifying experiences on the Murmansk convoys - is dazzling, surprisingly dance-inflected and sometimes bafflingly good-natured.

The RCM doyens Parry and Stanford are represented by the meaty Brahmsian Symphonic Variations which Boult later re-recorded in 1977 for EMI. Here he is heard with the LSO. The EMI project used his more accustomed partners, the LPO. Stanford is heard in ‘Oirish’ mode with the Irish Rhapsody No.4 - it’s a nice piece but the conductor is Braithwaite not Boult. Outstanding are Jones’s vivacious Dance Fantasy and Lambert’s glorious Music for Orchestra. Look past the John Major-like greyness of the Lambert title and you will find a work of symphonic bearing and memorably moving melodic concentration. I have high hopes that when someone gets to record Cecil Gray’s Syllogism we will find a work of similar attractions hiding behind its academically bleached title. Major works, presented whole, include Leigh’s neo-classical crystal-cut harpsichord Concertino, Rawsthorne’s Symphonic Studies, RVW’s stirring Tallis Fantasia and a stunning display of devastating mastery by Grace Williams - her Ballads for Orchestra. The Williams is on no account to be missed. The Walton Music for Children is intriguing in prospect but ultimately faceless. Bushier-tailed are the Moeran Rhapsody No. 2 from amongst the earliest Lyrita Recorded Edition LPs and the flamboyant Santiago de Espada overture by Malcolm Williamson. Back in time we go to Warlock’s An Old Song - and we must again thank Lyrita for avoiding obvious choices; delightful to hear something off the beaten track rather than another Serenade or Capriol both of which beckoned from the Lyrita coffers. Wind forward to that magician of the impressionist-expressionist genre, Cyril Scott. When Early One Morning was first issued Scott was a very great rarity and the Herrmann-Ogdon partnership was even more exotic even if Bernard Herrmann was a well known Anglophile who conducted Rubbra, Finzi, RVW, Delius and many others. From later generations we hear the Maconchy Music for Strings, which now just fails to engage me, the more attractive Mathias Sinfonietta and at the lighter yet polished end of the spectrum Phyllis Tate’s London Fields suite. Tate is another composer deserving of more recording projects: I recommend her Saxophone Concerto (1944) but there is much more including many works for voice with orchestra or smaller instrumental ensemble. 

The documentation for these sets is a joy. Each booklet starts with a two page personal recollection by Edward Greenfield of ‘Lyrita Recorded Edition’ and a three pager by Lewis Foreman: ‘Meeting Richard Itter’. After this comes four pages of photos - some (Braithwaite, Wordsworth) not seen before. The highly detailed track-listing follows this. I only regret that although (p) dates are given there are no dates and locations of recording sessions. Last but not least there are extended yet succinct background notes on each composer and each featured piece. These are by the astute and knowledgeable Paul Conway. Mr Conway has appeared on the Lyrita scene only since 2007 but he has, through his writings, already made himself part of Lyrita’s resplendent achievement.

Rob Barnett 

see also review by John France

Message received:

Dear MusicWeb

Thank you for the in-depth review of the Anniversary sets. We are offering a free limited edition poster to people who purchased the sets. Inside each box will be a bounce back card and as long as people fill in their postal address we will send them a copy.

The Poster is A3 in size and features eleven rare and unique photographs taken at Lyrita recording sessions including Kenneth Wilkinson, Sir Adrian Boult, Tod Handley, Joy Finzi, Norah Kirby (John Ireland's house-keeper), John Ogdon, Elizabeth Maconchy, and even Richard Itter.

Antony Smith

 


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