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
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
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.