are accumulating an enviable catalogue of British Music. And in
addition to their own recordings they have been adding classics
from the defunct Collins Classics English Song series which only
goes to make the Naxos catalogue even more delectable. This CD
is a sampler for the Naxos catalogue but also acts as a brilliant
introduction to British Music in the 20th century.
This collection, starting with a movement of Moeran's Symphony
and concluding with all of Malcolm Arnold's 'Cornish Dances' manages
to fit in C.W. Orr and Arthur Somervell alongside the more well
Symphony, played by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under David
Lloyd-Jones, is a performance which stands comparison with any
on disc. In his review Neil
Horner described this as " too little known British music,
brilliantly and idiomatically played by a great British (rather
than London) orchestra and conducted by someone who can do no
wrong at present in his native repertoire", a view with which
I wholeheartedly agree.
Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge have made some fine recordings
for Naxos and their recording of Finzi's 'Clear and Gentle Stream’;
come from a disc of Finzi's choral works. Again this is repertoire
that can get neglected on disc and performances rarely get better
than this, though perhaps I could have wished for a greater clarity
in the words. In his original review Michael
Cookson described it as a "winning release of marvellous music
settings of 'The Shropshire Lad' have rather fallen into the shadow
of the settings by more well known composers. Here, Christopher
Maltman sings 'Loveliest of trees' most persuasively
second of Delius's two Aquerelles 'Gaily, but not quick' uses
a folk-like melody as its main theme and rather has the nature
of a country dance, crisply played by the Northern Sinfonia under
David Lloyd-Jones. This mood is quickly dispelled by Bax's Atmospheric
'Summer Music', a musical depiction of a summer's day in Southern
Barnett described it as a 'warm delight', and Graham
Parlett was equally complimentary.
the Wood' from Bliss's 'Conversations' for the slightly unusual
combination of Flute, Oboe, Violin, Viola and Cello, has some
unusual textures but is rather closely recorded. This recording
was highly recommended by Neil
'Sospiri' is a haunting piece, a far cry from his salon music
and it is given a wonderfully warm performance by the strings
of the English Northern Philharmonia. John
France thought that the sadness of the piece, the feelings
of the end of an era, were well brought out in this recording.
'Under the Greenwood Tree' from his music from As You Like It
is a charmingly atmospheric evocation of earlier eras. Jane
Erb thought it charming.
mood of charming English pastoral is interrupted by Holst's 'Egdon
Heath', a far darker, deeper work. Holst regarded it as his finest
work though not as accessible as 'The Planets'. Naxos are to be
commended for breaking the mood by including it here, rather than
one of Holst's more popular pieces. It receives a subtle and sympathetic
performance from the Royal Scottish National orchestra under David
title song from Vaughan Williams's 'On Wenlock Edge' is given
an idiomatic performance by Anthony Rolfe Johnson. Ian
Lace described the performances as radiant. But I am afraid
that I found Johnson's voice seemed to display a little strain
when put under pressure. So, not my first choice for a complete
recording, but welcome nonetheless in this survey.
'Like as the hart' is gem and Christopher Robinson and the Choir
of St. Johns College give it a nearly perfect performance.
'Alla Marcia' is a characterful early work dating from 1933 and
has overtones of Mahler. Perhaps one could have wished for something
from Britten's mature period, but it is given here in a committed
performance by the Maggini String Quartet.
'A Cotswold Hill Tune' is his only piece for string orchestra.
A charming miniature which owes much to Delius, it comes from
a collection of English String Miniatures which was highly recommended
collection ends with a performance of Malcolm Arnold's 'Four Cornish
Dances' which comes from Andrew Penny and the Queensland Symphony
Orchestra's disc of all of Arnold's Dances (English, Scottish,
Cornish, Irish, Welsh). This is a joyous work in fine performances
and this disc was recommended by Len
Mullenger in his survey.
is a fine collection of British music with an emphasis on the
English pastoral school (for want of a better expression). Naxos
have not always gone for the most obvious selection and that is
to be commended. Though many of the items are short, listening
to this collection is a pleasant task and many things make you
want to explore the original discs more. Which is of course the