Rutland BOUGHTON (1878-1960)
Concerto for String Orchestra
Concerto in D major for flute and strings
Three Folk Dances
Emily Beynon (flute) with
The New London Orchestra conducted by Ronald Corp
The first thing one notices about the music on this album is how preponderantly
warm and good-natured, and how tuneful and accessible it all is.
Once again, Hyperion's enterprising Rutland Boughton series, which has already
included his Symphony No. 3, the Oboe Concerto, String Quartets in A and
F, the Oboe Quartet No. 1 and the choral drama, Bethlehem, proves
the appeal and richness of this composer's music. Yes, there is much more
to Boughton than his immensely successful The Immortal Hour (also
available on Hyperion).
The album opens with the brief but melodic Three Folk Dances. Like
all the rest of the compositions in this collection it is scored for strings
only. The titles of the three movements tell it all: 'Hornpipe' (sounding
remarkably like a hymn tune of our childhood), is marked 'rollicking but
not too fast'; 'The Weary Wave o' Tyne is to be played 'slow and sad' (but
the melancholy is sweetly sad); and 'Culloden: A Country Dance' is directed
to be played 'quick and merry'.
Boughton composed his Aylesbury Games, in 1932, for the orchestra
of his native town. However, Charles Pope the founder of the orchestra felt
it was beyond the capabilities of his players and he did not feel confident
enough for them to perform it until 1978. The work is a set of three rhapsodic
variations on a simple theme heard at the outset of the first movement. Although
the theme tune is Boughton's own it seems to have been derived (probably
unconsciously) from 'The Seagull of the Land-under-Waves' one of the Hebridean
folksongs collected by Marjory Kennedy-Fraser that had already served Sir
Granville Bantock's Hebridean Symphony. The opening Tempo giusto
movement is natural, bracing and easy-going with folk-song and pastoral charm.
There is a Herrmannesque astringency as well in the few darker bars. An
impressive feature is the dialogue between a solo violin in its high register
and cello. The second movement contrasts tragic almost bleak material with
very sunny, playful melodies. The finale begins with formal classical elegance
before whirling figures settle into a mood of introspection; then comes more
stirring string work, that is not unlike the string music Britten wrote for
his Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra. A small but richly scored
work with much complex contrapuntal writing.
The Flute Concerto is a little gem. It is sweetly tuneful. It opens breezily
and there is a feel of the sea as well as the countryside. The flute soon
mimics birdsong and its song is nicely lyrical. The flute's birdsong arpeggios
continue into the second movement; but the mood is now one of quiet contentment
with the soloist murmuring over slow moving strings. The song of the finale
is cocky and jaunty. Emily Beynon is articulate and sensitive to the shifting
character of the work and she very clearly enjoys it.
The concluding work is the major item on the disc, Boughton's Concerto for
String Orchestra. It was originally conceived in 1937 for the Boyd Neel String
Orchestra but they found it too difficult and it had to wait until 1997 for
its first performance by the strings of the Bournemouth Sinfonietta. The
work was originally entitled 'Four English Pieces' and each movement had
a descriptive title: 'English Overture'; 'Scherzo at Dawn'; 'Love Scene'
and 'Hornpipe'. Quoting from Michael Hurd's eloquent and informative notes,
this is adventuresome string writing of a very high order: elaborate
divisis (including the use of solo instruments), trills and arpeggios, bowed
and plucked strings, with and without mutes. - in short, a veritable compendium
of effects that render it a worthy companion to the great works for string
orchestra by Elgar and Vaughan Williams, Britten and Tippett.
The fine ensemble playing of the New London Orchestra is clean and polished,
and confident and enthusiastic.