Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:


Gustav HOLST Beni Mora - LSO/composer
Suite: The Sea - LSO/composer
Arthur BLISS
Conversations - SO/composer
The Wasps Overture - Aeolian Orch/composer
Hamilton HARTY
With the Wild Geese - Hallé /composer
The Wreckers overture - British SO/composer
mono Recorded: Holst (14 Feb 1924), Bridge (26 July 1923), Bliss (9 Feb 1923), Vaughan Williams (1922), Harty (26 Mar 1926), Smyth (1 May 1930).
 SYMPOSIUM 1202 [75.05]
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Symposium's authentic transfer process is difficult to appraise without hearing the originals but the impression garnered is of minimal processing. These recordings are getting on for eighty years old. We must not therefore be surprised at the sizzle and low level pop. In general pitch is healthy and stable. I did not notice any wow. True enough the sound in Beni Mora is attenuated and starved. However against that it is a privilege to hear Holst exploring every nuance of this colourful score replete with references to The Planets and In the Street of Ouled Nails to Sibelius's Nightride and Sunrise.

Bridge's The Sea is done with every drop of imaginative insight. I have never heard the Moonlight movement performed with such slow enchantment. Neither Handley (Chandos) nor Groves (EMI) can approach this. This work left Britten thunderstruck and its influence strikes forward abridging the years to Peter Grimes. In The Storm Bridge is not fluently served by his orchestra which seems clumsy by comparison with the slow spindrift of Moonlight.

The Bliss is the only work on the disc to have been recorded at broadly the same time as its premiere. The Committee Meeting always struck me as a rather Hungarian affair (Bartók rather than Kodaly) and this continues into In the ballroom (nothing of Ronald Binge or Geoffrey Toye in this!). While In the Wood and Soliloquy (the latter for solo clarinet) are soporific with, in the case of In The Wood, the first rustlings of the romance that was to distinguish the slow movement of the composer's Colour Symphony.

Vaughan Williams' Wasps buzz and sting but with the buzzing comes the quick abrasion of noisy surfaces. The composer takes this at an impatient pace which saps the great middle theme - another immortal tune 'with legs'. Still this is what the composer intended?

Hamilton Harty is much under-rated. His Tchaikovskian tone poem is spun and ripped along in true mastery. The offbeat strokes near the start are given with zip and impact. Neither Gibson (Classics for Pleasure) nor Bryden Thomson (Chandos) can quite match the composer's zest and sense of space. At this speed Harty scorches out some of the fine detail but, by heck, it's exciting - just think of the rate at which Mravinsky takes the 1960 Leningrad PO (DG) finale of Tchaikovsky Symphony No 5 and you will know what to expect. Would that Harty had recorded Ode to a Nightingale with the dedicatee, Agnes Nicholls, his wife. Now that would have been a major recording event. As it is this is most heated performance on the disc.

The youngest recording is the Smyth with its galloping call to arms. I am not sure where this was recorded but there is a much more salubrious feel to the music and the acoustic seems less on top of the listener than the other tracks. Smyth leads the orchestra with an enlivening but pliable baton preferable (by a shading) to Gibson's version on Classics for Pleasure. The ambience of the final bar is cut brutally short.

In all the above cases the sound cannot hope to match the Gibson, Groves and Handley comparators.

Regrettably typographical gaffes leap out at you. A hyphenated Vaughan-Williams! Ethel Smyth becomes SMYTHE (an error blessedly absent from Stephen Follows' useful notes)! Juy instead of July!

The disc is generously topped up and will be a direct draw for British music enthusiasts.

Rob Barnett

The disc is generously topped up and will be a direct draw for British music enthusiasts.

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Symposium Records
110 Derwent Ave
0181 368 8667

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