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ENGLISH STRING MINIATURES Vol. 3
Carlo MARTELLI (b.1935)

Persiflage

Gerald FINZI (1901-1956)

Prelude (1925); Romance (1923)

Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)

Brook Green Suite (1933)

William BLEZARD (b. 1921)

Duetto (1951)

Michael HURD (b.1928)

Sinfonia Concertante (1972?)

Haydn WOOD (1882-1959)

An 18th Century Scherzo (1948)

Bruce MONTGOMERY (1921-1978)

Concertino for String Orchestra (1950)
Robert Gibbs (violin) (Hurd)
Royal Ballet Sinfonia/David Lloyd-Jones
rec 19-20 Mar 2000, St Paul's, New Southgate, London
NAXOS 8.555069 [60.30]



As soon as the first track of this interesting compilation CD begins, it is clear that it will give much enjoyment. Carlo Martelli's five-minute long Persiflage has a dramatic opening gesture, and then maintains the interest it has created. The Naxos recording is bold and direct, and contributes fully to the effect created by the excellent strings of the Royal Ballet Sinfonia.

The best known composers featured on this enterprising programme are Finzi and Holst. The two Finzi items both represent the more lyrical side of his style, whereas Holst's delightful Brook Green Suite has three short movements organised in the traditional fast-slow-fast design. David Lloyd-Jones plays the central Air very much at a flowing tempo, thereby missing some of its poetry, and his outer movements are on the fast side too. But this remains an engaging performance if it does not erase memories of Imogen Holst's recording for Lyrita with the English Chamber Orchestra.

Haydn Wood has enjoyed something of a resurgence with the greater interest in light music which has developed during the last ten years. And quite right too, for his infectiously rhythmic 18th Century Scherzo makes an immediate and pleasing impression. Equally enjoyable is another five-minute miniature, William Blezard's Duetto, which is in fact a tuneful canon introduced by a skilfully placed passage of pizzicato. This offers a particularly interesting balance between technique and inspiration.

The central Lento espressivo movement of Bruce Montgomery's charming Concertino is given the full treatment by Lloyd-Jones and his players, to winning effect, while the finale is appropriately energetic. For me, however, the highlight of the programme is the Sinfonia Concertante by Michael Hurd, in which Robert Gibbs is the accomplished violin soloist. Again there are three movements, and again there is a beautifully lyrical movement at the centre.

Terry Barfoot

And Rob Barnett writes

 

It's all over in just over an hour but in that time you are swept along from one compass point to another.

The spirited innocent intoxication of Martelli's Persiflage makes me all the more impatient for the release of the Dinemec CD of the Martelli Second Symphony. Persiflage (banter) gambols along in carefree fifties confidence - a touch of Wirén here and a splosh of Coates there: brilliant silvery playing. The two Finzi pieces have been done elsewhere with more inwardness and poise but you will be glad of the repose they offer. Holst's Brook Green is hurried along in the Prelude and Dance faster than Imogen Holst ever did in the Lyrita but the Air is very well spun. The Blezard with its escalator pizzicato and serenade jewellery is just as strong as the Martelli. This probes and strains at the boundaries of tonality.

Anything by Michael Hurd is worth you ear-time. I recently welcomed his glorious Oboe Concerto on ASV and this 10 minute pocket violin concerto in all but name spins that same skein of regret and grace that flows from the Atterburg Third Suite; the highest praise. The Haydn Wood is like a skilled and well-turned chip off the Prokofiev Classical block. Montgomery is a name usually unrecognised among the British music fraternity. Film music enthusiasts will know him for his music to the early salvos from the 'Carry On' crew. He also wrote detective fiction as Edmund Crispin. There is an excellent article on him by Phil Scowcroft. His Concertino for string orchestra is Bliss-like (Music for Strings - strong resemblances) with a modicum of Rawsthorne's severity thrown in and a touch of etiolated Delius in the lento espressivo. It is the single most substantial piece on the disc.

Hearing the whole recital I rather wish Naxos had gone the whole hog and given us more Martelli, Blezard, Montgomery and Hurd. These are the works which make this a thoroughly recommendable anthology. Roll on volumes 4 and 5.


Rob Barnett


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