> ARNE British Music Collection [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- July2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Thomas Augustine ARNE

Eight Overtures, Harpsichord Concerto No 5, Organ Concertos Nos 4-6
and other selections
CD 1
Overtures Nos 1-8

(The Academy of Ancient Music - Christopher Hogwood)
Bacchus and Ariadne
9 Recit: The faithless Theseus
10 Aria: Ah, Theseus, Theseus stay!
11 Recit: The jolly god who rules
12 Aria: Cease, lovely nymph, to weep
13 Recit: With soft reluctance
14 Aria: Learn whence ye fond maidens
Fair Caelia Love Pretended
15 Recit: Fair Caelia love pretended
16 Aria: To all the sex deceitfull
17 Recit: But Caelia now repenting
18 Aria: How engaging, how endearing
(Robert Tear - tenor- The Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields - Neville Marriner)
CD 2

1 The soldier tir’d
(Joan Sutherland - Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden)
2 Harpsichord Concerto No 5
(George Malcolm - harpsichord; Academy of St-Martin-in-the-Fields - Marriner)
3-11 Organ Concertos Nos 4-6
(Jean Guillou - organ; Berlin Brandenburg Orchestra - René Klopfenstein)
12 Rise, Glory, rise (from Rosamond)
13 By the rushy-fringed bank (from Comus)
Brightest lady (from Comus)
14 Where the bee sucks there lurk I (from The Tempest)
(Emma Kirkby - The Academy of Ancient Music - Christopher Hogwood)
15 O ravishing delight (from The Judgement of Paris)
(Jennifer Vyvyan - soprano; Ernest Lush - piano)
Various recordings made in 1953, 1960, 1967, 1969, 1973, 1991
DECCA - BRITISH MUSIC COLLECTION 470 372-2 [CD1 72’08"+CD2 76’03"] Budget price


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The Arne Overtures were published in 1751 but some date from considerably earlier – recyclings from operatic or stage works – and of real variety. Arne adopts the French or Italian overture as contrastive devices and engagingly so, and there are some splendidly enjoyable movements throughout their length though in toto they don’t really withstand close comparison with the work of a superior technician and melodist such as Boyce. But the Andante of the First Overture is especially vibrant and vocal, the con spirito of the Fourth replete with some dramatic flourishes and solo lines – confident, strong, delightful. Especially delicious is the flute writing in the Fifth Overture and the arching line of the Allegro con spirito. How delightfully as well Hogwood – I think that this was the Academy of Ancient Music’s first record – gives vent to the mobile chattering in the Sixth or the grand Largo of the final Overture, No 8 – expressive and noble, involved and intense through to the conclusion of the sprightly Con spirito last movement. Robert Tear concludes the first disc of this somewhat miscellaneous collection in fine form, singing recitatives and arias from both Bacchus and Ariadne and Fair Caelia Love Pretended. He is convincing and fluent, florid and with clarion tone – where necessary – and with an admirably firm chested stance to the music, rising to a peak in his singing of the aria Cease lovely nymph to weep. This aria from Bacchus and Ariadne receives a performance quite worthy of its sympathetic beauty.

The second CD is something of a mixed bag of organ concertos and songs opening in incendiary fashion with Joan Sutherland (no less) floridly dealing with The soldier tir’d, shadowed the while by trumpeter Harry Dilley. I’m afraid that the Fifth Harpsichord Concerto was fairly uninspired stuff and not even George Malcolm can save it; not only that but it reappears in the guise of the fifth Organ Concerto where we have a second opportunity to investigate its threadbare lack of inspiration – and no more inspiring when played by Jean Guillou in the Lutheran Church in Berlin than it had been when dutifully gone through in Kingsway Hall. The Fourth Organ Concerto is considerably more impressive and I enjoyed Guillou’s rather reedy registrations and generous amplitude. Emma Kirkby deals with four of the songs – delightfully executed but not as quicksilver settings as one might expect – Arne is just lacking in melodic distinction to raise them beyond the merely attractive. Jennifer Vyvyan and master accompanist Ernest Lush bring the recital to an end with their 1953 O ravishing Delight from The judgement of Paris.

The typographical intricacies of the recording details would, I think, have defeated better men than I; clearly clarity and simplicity in piecemeal collections of this kind are difficult but these Decca British Music Collections are now leaders in the field of confusing the public with a profusion of detail concentrated in a small space bristling with round brackets, square brackets and semi-colons.

Jonathan Woolf

See also review by Peter Wells


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