MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2023
Approaching 60,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Crotchet   AmazonUK   AmazonUS Budget price

Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Overture: The Poisoned Kiss [6:45]
Two Hymn-tune Preludes [7:53] (Eventide 4:50; Dominus Regit me 3:00]
The Running Set [4:41]
Flos campi [20:57]
Suite for viola and orchestra: (Group 1 : Prelude; Carol; Christmas Dance; Group 2: Ballad; Moto perpetuo; Group 3: Musette; Polka mélancolique; Galop} [25:33]
Sea Songs 3:51
Frederick Riddle, viola; Bournemouth Sinfonietta Choir; Bournemouth Sinfonietta/Norman Del Mar; George Hurst
Overture: The Wasps 10:13
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vernon Handley
Three Songs from The House of Life orchestrated. Maurice Johnstone: (Love-sight 4:12; Silent Noon 4:03; Heart's Haven 4:17)
Stephen Varcoe, baritone
City of London Sinfonia/Richard Hickox
Six Studies in English Folksong [8:36]
Janet Hilton, clarinet/Keith Swallow, piano
Romance [6:40]
Tommy Reilly, harmonica; Academy of St Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble/Sir Neville Marriner
Linden Lea [2:19] (arr. A. Somervell)
Huddersfield Choral Society/Brian Kay
Fantasia on Greensleeves [4:12] (arr. R. Greaves)
BBC Philharmonic/Vernon Handley
Serenade to Music [10:39]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vernon Handley
Rec. Christchurch Priory, Dorset, 1 January 1975 (Overture: The Poisoned Kiss; Hymn-tune Preludes, The Running Set; Sea Songs); April 1977 (Flos Campi; Suite for viola); St John's Smith Square, London, 1 June 1976 (Romance); St George the Martyr, London, 31 May - 1 June 1992 (Six Studies); All Saints' Church, Tooting, London, November 1983 (Overture: The Wasps and Serenade to Music); New Broadcasting House, Manchester, 20-21 February 1995 (Fantasia on Greensleeves) and 11 November 1995 (Linden Lea); St Jude on the Hill, Hampstead, London 13-14 March 1989 (House of Life Songs)
CHANDOS CHAN2419 [69:41 + 55:43]

Maurice Johnstone essay by Phil Scowcroft

This set is built of two CDs - one generously timed anthology of Bournemouth recordings; the other a briefer thing of attractive rags and patches.

The first disc has the Bournemouth Sinfonietta as its focus and draws on LPs at first issued by Polydor and RCA (the viola works). The dapper and undervalued Hurst (he was the conductor of the first orchestral concert I attended at Paignton's Festival Theatre) delivers vivacious versions of various short pieces. The Poisoned Kiss has now been recorded complete by Chandos. However for years this ebulliently performed version of the overture was the only shred of the work in the catalogue. Much the same applies to The Running Set which is not that far from Arnold and Grainger and to the rumbustious Sea Songs (which I know from a wind-band version) and which inhabit similar territory to the Folk Song Suite. Hurst also turns in nicely paced and glisteningly textured versions of the piano-originals - Hymn Tune Preludes. Brian Culverhouse did a slap-up job on these recordings now more than a quarter century old.

It is wonderful to hear all these Bournemouth recordings again. They were made in the period 1975-77 some (the viola items) under the sponsorship of Harveys of Bristol. Sponsorship was far from uncommon in those days. Let's not forget that many CFP LPs of those days were sponsored by W.D. and H.O. Wills - the cigarette manufacturers. It is good to hear Frederick Riddle's assertively recorded readings again. This was the suite's second recording, John Snashall had recorded it with Robert Starer's Concerto on an old Pye GSGC LP in the 1960s. Hiss is deeply subsumed yet without blunting Riddle's nasally accented wormwood-and-tears viola. Flos Campi is projected and recorded with great immediacy although Roger Best (Nimbus) and Cecil Aronowitz are more taut and respond with greater alacrity in the Moderato alla marcia. The notable ecstasy is however very well telegraphed by everyone especially the choir in the andante quasi lento.

The Suite for viola and orchestra is still fairly rare. It is not really top-drawer Vaughan Williams but has plenty going for it. The Prelude for instance recalls the flow of the Bach solo cello suites and Riddle is wonderful in this as he also is in the rasping Christmas Dance. There is more mileage in this suite perhaps in a mixed recital with Arthur Benjamin's Viola Concerto and Romantic Fantasy. There is a touching Ballad (which seems to dream on some Shropshire or Cotswold hill in a shimmer of heat. The Galop bowls along with an unaccountably Hungarian Tzigane accent.

The second disc has a core made up half of a Delius/RVW collection conducted by Handley and of shreds of other RVW material from corners of the Chandos catalogue. The recordings here are more up to date although the first disc does sound splendid. Handley, Boult pupil that he is, delivers a lissom and brilliant version of the Wasps Overture - it really is a gem of the repertoire belonging up there with standards such as The Hebrides, The Bartered Bride and The Marriage of Figaro. The Fantasia on Greensleeves moves forward with pace and poetry juxtaposing Greensleeves and Lovely Joan. It was originally written as an entr'acte for the opera Sir John in Love. Hearing this purely orchestral version of The Serenade to Music shorn of its sixteen solo voices can be a disorientating experience but it works smoothly and touchingly.

Maurice Johnstone (1900-1976) was a composer as well as a BBC administrator. He orchestrated three of the songs from the Pre-Raphaelite song-cycle The House of Life. Varcoe is rather wobbly of voice here though his tone is attractive if a little mournful. I know some of Johnstone's compositions from tapes of old broadcasts. I hope that we will in due course get recordings of his these including Dover Beach, Welsh Rhapsody, Ballade and The Oak and Ash and of his swashbuckling brass-band pieces. We already have his superb Tarn Howes - A Cumbrian Rhapsody on ASV - it belongs up there with Butterworth’s A Shropshire Lad and RVW’s Lark Ascending.

Rather like the Viola Suite, the Six Studies in English Folk Song, here in the version for clarinet and piano are piquant miniature mood and song pieces - all too brief to admit even the possibility of boredom. They would go well with Finzi's Bagatelles. The lento is a lovely calming piece with no clods of soil stuck to its boots.

Vaughan Williams was well known for his interest in the timbres of unusual instruments and wrote many pieces for ‘outlandish’ combinations. While not as methodically comprehensive as Hindemith or Holmboe or Arnold or Creston, there are works here such as the lovely Tuba Concerto (the Romance is a hands-down winner in any company) and this Romance for harmonica and orchestra. It was originally written for Larry Adler - who else - but is here despatched with style and resonance by Tommy Reilly - Crown Prince to Adler's ‘king’; royalty nonetheless.

Brian Kay conducts the Huddersfield Choral society in Arthur Somervell's arrangement of Linden Lea. There is a danger with this song of it being delivered in a rather heartless sing-song manner. Certainly Brian Kay tempts fate at this speed but such is the flexible yield-and-take of this version that he brings it off successfully.

The notes are borrowed from the original issues. The words of the sung items are not printed.

A resplendent if rather idiosyncratic collection with plenty of surprises and not a few discoveries.

Rob Barnett

Return to Index

Error processing SSI file