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Autumn: A Collection of Seasonal Classics
Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Autumn
from The Four Seasons, Op.8 [11:15]
George Frederic HANDEL (1685-1759)
La Rejouissance (The Rejoicing)
from Music for the Royal Fireworks HWV351 (1749) [2:09]
Hamish MACCUNN (1868-1759)
Harvest Dance
from Highland Memories, Op.30 (arr. Carse) (1997) [3:10]
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
'Late Swallows'
3rd movt. from String Quartet RTVIII/8 (1916) [11:105]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1952)
'
Bloomsbury Square on a November Afternoon' 2nd movt. from A London Symphony (1913) [7:21]
Christopher GUNNING (b. 1844)
Autumn Festival
from Yorkshire Glory
Sergey PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Autumn Sketch ,
Op.8 (1910 rev. 1914, 1935)
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)
Dream of a Witches' Sabbath
from Symphonie Fantastique, Op.14 (1830) [10:13]
Anatol Konstantinovich LIADOV (1855-1914)
Baba Yaga,
Op.56 (c.1891-1904) [3:19]; The Enchanted Lake, Op.62 (1909) [6:02]
Moscow Virtuosi, Vladimir Spivakov (violin); Scottish Chamber Orchestra/Alexander Gibson, Jose Serebrier; Royal Ballet Sinfonia/John Wilson; Brodsky Quartet; Philharmonia Orchestra/Owain Arwel Hughes; Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Vernon Handley; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Enrique Batiz; Orquestra Filarmonica de la Cuidad de Mexico/Enrique Batiz.
rec. 1987-1999. DDD/ADD
RESONANCE CD RSN 3074 [76:16]
 


Following the pattern for the companion discs in this seasonally-themed series from Resonance (see reviews for Spring and Summer), this CD opens with the appropriate Vivaldi season, as played by the excellent Moscow Virtuosi. Whilst my view remains that Resonance would do well to make available the complete ‘Four Seasons’ by these performers on one disc, I am coming to appreciate this sometimes over-familiar piece afresh by listening to the movements separately rather than in sequence. The first two sections are excellent; the third, the very well-known 'The Hunt' is perhaps on the side of lushly over-emotional interpretation, which is unusual for this group who normally display taut and virtuosic musicianship.
 
This is followed by an awakening although brief fanfare. An extract from the Fireworks Music is an imaginative choice, as the fireworks are one of the things for which this season is known.
 
Next is a delightful Scottish dance, which was new to me and which I enjoyed. The ensemble's role in playing for dance is no surprise as it is easy here to imagine dancing when listening to this track.
 
As with the companion discs, there is a work by Delius. However this time it is, to my surprise, not one of the highlights. I usually enjoy the Brodsky Quartet's playing, but this track wallows rather too much in the mournful melancholy of its mood.
 
By contrast, the Vaughan Williams Bloomsbury Square, a generous full movement from his readily pictorial London Symphony is an excellent choice, both in showing an aspect of the seasonal theme, and by being an enjoyable work. It is well played here by the Philharmonia in this 1995 recording. I would hope that if this extract is new to the listener, it might whet their appetite and encourage them to purchase a full version.
 
The extract from ‘Yorkshire Glory’ has the solidly English feel of the other extracts from this interesting and under-appreciated work. As I have suggested on previous occasions, its effect for me is to interest me in hearing a performance of the complete work, which again one imagines Resonance are in a position to release and promote. If it is intended to serve as a sampler for this then it is effective in its purpose.
 
The Prokofiev is a simple and pleasant work, designed to be suitable as a performance piece for children’s musical ensembles. However it has its own internal thematic programme, with the result that it creates a thematic programme within another thematic programme.
 
The Berlioz brings a change of tempo - dramatic, initially almost frenzied, indeed bewitched with chiming bells interspersed amid an eerie and powerful musical landscape. Despite the 1987 date, the recording sounds fresh, clear and strong. An enjoyable performance from the RPO.
 
Liadov cannot be a well-known composer to many general listeners, which makes the use of the term 'classics' a somewhat loose or at least unusual one. However, one of the more interesting features of this disc is the inclusion of more unusual material alongside well-known material like the Vivaldi and the Vaughan Williams. The Berlioz finale is a hard act to follow. Although Baba Yar is forceful and strident at times, it is a more measured work and I would have preferred more of a contrast in tempo at this point. The recording quality takes something of a turn for the worse at this point, which does not help matters. This also applies to the second work by this composer, which follows.
 
This disc has a noticeably better thematic progression than its companions in the series, from the golden glow of early autumn, through harvest festival to Halloween and the short wet days of November. Possibly this would have been more consistent had the works by Gunning and Prokofiev come between the MacCunn and the Delius. Hence, although much improved, the programming could still be further improved.
 
The variation in quality, whilst less dramatic than previously, is still an issue, and one which can only detract from the appeal of the disc, particularly for the gift market. It is an improvement on the preceding discs, having some interesting material, some of it unusual, but is still patchy in quality. It falls between offering accessible listening for the novice and offering unfamiliar material for the interest of serious music fans, who will probably not care for the anthology format in comparison with a more relevant context for these works.
 
Julie Williams
 

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