you already know the previous volumes of British String Miniatures,
you know what to expect from the present Volume 3, i.e. an attractive
collection of works, some fairly well known, some rather less
so, but all engaging, superbly crafted and well worth more than
the occasional hearing.
was well known as a brilliant and resourceful composer for brass.
His Entertainments actually started its life as
a piece for brass band, but the version for strings, presumably
by the composer, is quite successful and idiomatic. Light music
of great charm, no doubt, but with some unexpected twists, such
as in the third movement Taproom Ballad in which "an
inebriated singer (viola, superbly played by Helen Kamminga) leads
a pub sing-song with whistling effects (string harmonics)".
Sospiri Op.70 written on the eve of World War I
is in fact the only well-known piece here and thus does not call
for any particular comments. Suffice it to say that I found this
performance moving indeed. Being Warlock’s only piano piece, the
Five Folksong Preludes are somewhat lesser known
than, say, Capriol Suite or the Serenade for
Strings (in Volume 2 – WHL 2136), though some may remember
John McCabe’s recording made many years ago (DECCA SDD 444 nla).
What we have here, is Philip Lane’s expert orchestration of four
of them, in a slightly different order. The fifth prelude Largo
maestoso found too pianistic was dropped.
Scott was, among many other things, a prolific composer whose
music is still underrated, though some of it has been recorded
(piano concertos on Lyrita, some piano music on Etcetera and several
orchestral works on Marco Polo 8.23485). His First Suite
for Strings based on a Victorian ballad, a folk-song and
a nursery rhyme respectively is a most attractive trifle of great
Haigh Marshall and John Fox are, I confess, new to me. Marshall’s
beautiful Elegy dedicated to Sir John Barbirolli
is a real gem and a most welcome novelty. I also greatly enjoyed
John Fox’s Countryside Suite for strings and harp.
Another refreshing rarity.
I first heard Gareth Walters’ delightful Divertimento
(once available on DECCA SXL 6468 and now available in Volume
1 [WHL 2134]), I have been on the look-out for any other pieces
of his. Though as attractive and as superbly written as any other
work here, his marvellous Sinfonia Breve (that none
the less plays for a little over twenty minutes) is in a quite
different league. In spite of its title, this is a major work
cast in a rather more astringent idiom, redolent of Bartok and
Honegger rather than of Vaughan Williams or Delius. It is a deeply
serious work with much virile string writing, tensely dramatic
at times. A minor masterpiece that definitely deserves to be better
performances throughout, well recorded. We certainly look forward
to hearing more of music such as this. Thoroughly enjoyable with
the added bonus of a wonderful work, Walters’ Sinfonia Breve.