Written between 1924 and 1947 most of this music traces
its Ariadne thread from Australia across oceans and mountain ranges
to Europe and specifically to England.
Holland's Cradle Song is a softened
rhapsodic meditation in the mode of Lark Ascending though with
a quicker pace and an instantly sweeter note. The spiritual resemblance
is even stronger in the Sonata which also bathes in the blue-hilled
euphoric ecstasy of Howells' writing in the 1910s. Holland touches off
hazy sparks and song in the allegro which again sounds very much
like Howells though this time it is the Howells of the first two violin
sonatas (as recorded by Hyperion with Paul Barritt). As the work progressed
I was reminded of the John Ireland Second Violin Sonata. The second
movement is Debussian in the piano part and pastoral-lyric in the violin
Dryad's Dance by Miriam Hyde is
a speedy, darting, quicksilver caper with a smattering of Jig and Dumky.
This is just the sort of encore piece to have been written by violinist
composers during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
I think, in particular, of the Hyperion Sammons collection issued last
Frank Hutchens' Always Afternoon prompts
comparison with his own piano miniatures featured on AW023. This is
inventive music, tender, singing and magical with touches of Rachmaninov,
Gurney and Howells. Certainly a highlight of the disc.
Alfred Hill remained lifelong in thrall to his
Leipzig roots. His music is much more in touch
with Berlin, Vienna, Prague and Salzburg than with Wenlock Edge or Wessex
still less with the Outback or Ayers Rock or the Great Barrier Reef.
The five miniatures here stay firmly and pleasantly anchored to the
idioms of Dvořák, Mendelssohn, Macdowell and Schumann. Blue
Evening reaches out towards the English country singers.
The Arthur Benjamin Sonatina merits the
diminutive only in duration though it is about the same length as the
Dulcie Holland Sonata with which it shares a kinship of mood. This is
a grown-up Sonata bathed in the same pastoral capricious ecstasy as
the Rootham Violin Sonata (1925), Julius Harrison's Bredon Hill and
the Howells chamber works of the Great War and the early 1920s. In the
finale there is a touch of the jazziness of Lambert (Rio Grande
and Music for Orchestra) and Walton (Sinfonia Concertante).
This is something also detectable in Benjamin's Concertino for
piano and orchestra - a work said to have been influenced by Gershwin's
Rhapsody in Blue. Woodward-Page would make a natural choice to
record the Benjamin Violin Concerto as well as to partner a brilliant
violist (such as Paul Neubauer) in the Romantic Fantasy.
The documentation is peerless. Notes are by Dr Rita
Crews who neatly balances technicality with biography and cultural scene-setting.
There are illustrations from contemporary ephemera: posters, newspaper
and journal cuttings, score extracts and the like.
An unmissable acquisition for students of the 'Idle
Hill of Summer' whether in Gloucester or New South Wales. Both Woodward-Page
and Davie are inspired interpreters encouraging return visits to the
disc. I hope that the concept prompts further anthologies and forays
into the secondhand sheet music shops and the piano stools of Brisbane,
Sydney, Hobart, Melbourne and Canberra.