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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Edgar BAINTON (1880 – 1956)
Epithalamion (1929)
An English Idyll (1946)a
Hubert CLIFFORD (1904 – 1959)

A Kentish Suite (1935)
The Casanova Melody (1949)
Five English Nursery Tunes (1941)
Shanagolden (1953)
Paul Whelan (baritone)a; BBC Philharmonic; Martyn Brabbins
Recorded: Studio 7, New Broadcasting House, Manchester, October 2001
CHANDOS CHAN 10019 [76:02]



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The orchestral Scherzo Epithalamion after Spenser, completed in 1929, is very much the product of its time. It is also – and most importantly, I think – a splendid piece of music that should have firmly placed its composer on the British musical map along with, say, Bax and Bridge. This superbly crafted work displays a remarkable orchestral mastery made clear in the very first bars of the scherzando introduction. This is sustained, almost effortlessly, throughout alongside a not inconsiderable melodic gift. This gift is evident from the marvellous theme on trumpets and horns heard immediately after the scurrying introduction. This is the kind of thing that Bax and Bridge could have written (e.g. the latter’s rhapsody Enter Spring). Bainton’s Second Symphony (on Chandos CHAN 9757) is a full-blooded Romantic utterance of some considerable substance, though fairly traditional in its aims and means. In Epithalamion, Bainton demonstrates that he was not hostile to Impressionism either, for here is music of great melodic and harmonic refinement. This is by far the finest work in this release and one may keep wondering how on earth such music as this has remained unheard for so many long years. An English Idyll was composed several years after the completion of the Second Symphony when the composer was still living n Australia. The former critic of the Manchester Guardian, Sir Neville Cardus, spent the war years in Australia, and he too must have felt some nostalgia for England. He wrote these poems (apparently the only ones he ever wrote) to be set by Bainton who most likely shared the same feelings. The resulting piece is a perfect example of what a gifted composer can do with words of little literary distinction. Cardus’s words, as far as I am concerned, are a bit too much of the Ye Olde England sort of thing and rather dated. Bainton, however, clothes them with some really fine, beautifully nostalgic music although he falters in the attempted evocation of the bustle around Piccadilly Circus. He nevertheless finds the right notes for the beautiful third section Cathedral in which he quotes the plainchant hymn Vexilla regis to great effect. A most welcome rarity, though, well worth more than the occasional hearing.

Clifford’s powerfully impressive Symphony 1940 (also on Chandos CHAN 9757) gives ample proof of the composer’s symphonic potential and establishes his credentials as a ‘serious’ composer. In many respects, Clifford’s career is not unlike that of Arthur Benjamin, a most distinguished composer, whose reputation nevertheless (and somewhat regrettably) rested on lighter works such as the ubiquitous and popular Jamaican Rumba, Cotillon Suite or North American Square Dance Suite. But he too wrote a substantial symphony towards the end of World War II, several worthy operas and some more serious orchestral works such as his beautiful Ballade for strings. Clifford also composed some lighter works such as the colourful A Kentish Suite (film music without the film, dixit Lewis Foreman) or the exquisite Five English Nursery Tunes. Superior light music of great charm and superbly scored, to be enjoyed for all it is worth. The short Casanova Melody (edited by Rodney Newton) is a trifle from the additional music composed for Carol Reed’s celebrated film The Third Man. On the other hand, the miniature tone poem Shanagolden inspired by a trip to Ireland and the place where his grandmother died may call Moeran to mind but is a real gem.

Martyn Brabbins conducts committed readings of these unjustly neglected works that should appeal to anyone wanting to explore some of the forgotten byways of the British Musical Renaissance. Warm, natural recorded sound and excellent notes by Lewis Foreman. I for one hope that we shall not have to wait too long for Volume 3.

Hubert Culot

See also review by Rob Barnett



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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