When the young Canadian violinist Arthur Davison went
to pay for a lesson, his Royal College of Music Professor, Albert Sammons,
waved him away – "Pass it on, just pass it on." This, throughout
his subsequent conducting career, is precisely what Davison has tried
to do, succeeding admirably in new music by such as Hoddinott and Mathias
and in creative work with the LPO and his Concerts for Children amongst
many other accomplishments.
That said I didn’t quite warm to the three suites from
the Water Music. The orchestra is virtuosic, the conception not at all
mired in textual and musicological ignorance, repeats are often made,
the sound quality has clarity and balances are good. And yet. Davison
often fails to give lift and inflection to lines, tempi occasionally
solidify and congeal, and the suites tend to emerge unvaried and somewhat
unyielding. The 1970 performance of the Music for the Royal Fireworks
is appositely muscular and grand – though nothing like as much as Mackerras’s
revolutionary 1959 recording. At super-budget price the recordings still
sound well, are simply but attractively packaged and feature on the
cover an evocative painting (by William James) of the Thames circa 1750.
I did sometimes wish Davison’s conducting, for all its virtues, had
been similarly inspiring.