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British Music - Green and Pleasant Land
Ernest John MOERAN (1894-1950) - Symphony in G minor: Vivace

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/David Lloyd Jones
from Naxos 8.555837
Gerald FINZI (1901 - 1956) - Clear and Gentle Stream

Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge/Christopher Robinson
Christopher Whitton (organ)
from Naxos 8.555792
Arthur SOMERVELL (1863 - 1937) - The Shropshire Lad: Loveliest of trees

Christopher Maltman (baritone)
Graham Johnson (piano)
The Duke Quartet
from Naxos 8.557113
Frederick DELIUS (1862 - 1934) - Two Aquarelles: Gaily but not quick

Northern Sinfonia/David Lloyd-Jones
Arnold BAX (1883 - 1953) - Summer Music

Royal Scottish National Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones
from Naxos 8.557144
Arthur BLISS (1891 - 1975) - Conversations: In the Wood: Adagio

Maggini Quartet
Nicholas Daniel (oboe)
Michael Cox (flute)
from Naxos 8.557108
Edward ELGAR (1857 - 1934) - Sospiri

English Northern Philharmonia/David Lloyd-Jones
William WALTON (1902 - 1983) As You Like It: Under the Greenwood Tree

RTE Concert Orchestra/Andrew Penny
from Naxos 8.553344
Gustav HOLST (1874 - 1934) - Egdon Heath

Royal Scottish National Orchestra/David Lloyd-Jones
from Naxos 8.553696
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872 - 1958) - On Wenlock Edge

Anthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor)
Graham Johnson (piano)
Duke Quartet
from Naxos 8.557114
Herbert HOWELLS (1892 - 1983) - Like as the Hart

Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge/Christopher Robinson
Ian Farrington (organ)
from Naxos 8.554659
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913 - 1976) - Alla Marcia

Maggini Quartet
from Naxos 8.554360
Charles Wilfrid ORR (1893 - 1976) - A Cotswold Hill Tune

Royal Ballet Sinfonia/David Lloyd-Jones
from Naxos 8.554186
Malcolm ARNOLD (1921 - ) - Four Cornish Dances

Queensland Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Penny
from Naxos 8.553526
NAXOS 8.557320 [72.52]

Naxos 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 known names.

E.J.Moeran's 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.

The 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 magnificently sung"

Somervell's 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

The 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 England. Rob Barnett described it as a 'warm delight', and Graham Parlett was equally complimentary.

'In 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 Horner.

Elgar's '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.

Walton's '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.

This 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 Lloyd-Jones.

The 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.

Howells's 'Like as the hart' is gem and Christopher Robinson and the Choir of St. Johns College give it a nearly perfect performance.

Britten's '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.

C.W.Orr's '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 by Ian Lace.

The 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.

This 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 idea.

Robert Hugill



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