In a nutshell: British composers conducting
and recording their music using the acoustic process and doing
so while their music was still new or comparatively so.
Cowen’s Butterfly's Ball is an effervescent little
overture with its roots struck deep and firm into the Leipzig
tradition. It was taken down on the fly and recorded in 1916 in
truncated version. It leaves little long term impression.
Bridge’s The Sea is impressive. The sense of surge and
surf can be felt in the unhurried breadth of Seascape.
There’s a flighty eldritch rush, like an eerie witchery echo
of Butterfly's Ball in Sea Foam. The long-lingering
Moonlight is a mite glutinous. The Storm however
reminds us how indebted parts of The Sea are to Debussy.
It also underlines that for all the immediacy of the acoustic
process it became crowded, opaque, generalised and dense under
the stress of loud dramatic music. The LSO play the suite as
if their lives depended upon it. The composer refused permission
for the recording to be issued. It is only in recent years that
Pearl, Symposium and now Dutton have issued the recording.
The year after recording The Planets
with the LSO, Holst conducted Beni Mora with
the recording session taking place on 14 February 1924. While
he re-recorded The Planets using the electrical process he did
not return to Beni Mora. It is however an attractive,
brightly coloured and agreeably sinister-toned work. Its elusive
mysteries are faithfully rendered by this recording even if,
once again, the explosive outbursts sound opaque and rowdy.
The close recording of the second dance emphasises the drums
attractively and in a way I have not heard before.
Stanford's Songs of the Fleet were recorded here about
13 years after its premiere at the Leeds Festival. They were
written as a sequel to the successful Songs of the Sea.
Harold Williams is the stalwart singer, notable for his steady
tonal production. Stanford makes effective use of the echo effect
between solo and choir in Sailing at Dawn but The
Song of the Sou’ wester limps along with its queasy rum-ti-tum
kitsch. Still he is deeply impressive and imaginative in The
Middle Watch with its quiet long-held notes and air of misty
expectation. The tongue-twister of Little Admiral is
well handled by Williams. Farewell is more soulful, almost
a Negro spiritual. Once again Williams matches the very best
with his steady oaken tone.
Elgar's Fringes of the Fleet comprises four songs setting
words by Kipling. Its initial 1917 run of two months came to
an end when Kipling grief-stricken and disillusioned by the
death of his son on the Western Front stopped performances.
This recording was made at the peak of that initial run. Charles
Mott is one of the four fisherman stalwarts originally on stage
in oilskins and Sou’Westers. He was called up soon after the
end of the run and was himself killed on 22 May 1918. This recording
makes for fascinating listening but is by no means the best
Landon Ronald's music for the 1920 play The Garden of Allah included
this piece for solo violin and orchestra: In an Eastern Garden.
Arthur Beckwith plays this capricious romantic meditation absolutely
straight and sweet as if it were Sheherazade.
The notes are in English only.
I was rather hoping that Dutton would
have tracked down the 1925 Boult/City of Birmingham Orchestra
acoustics of Bantock's Hebridean Symphony. Any chance?
It would go rather well with the similar acoustics of McEwen’s
Solway Symphony. Meantime this makes a fine companion
to another distinguished historical collection from Dutton:
British Composers Conduct And Other Rarities: Bantock: Two Heroic Ballads: Cuchullan's Lament;
Kishmul's Galley; Two Hebridean Sea-Poems: Caristiona; Sea Reivers;
Mayerl Sennen Cove - tone poem O'Neill The
Bluebird - Incidental music: Dance of the Mist Maids; Dance
of Fire and Water; Dance of the Stars; Dance of the Hours; Mary
Rose - Incidental music: Call of the Island & Interlude;
Prelude and Call (Finale) Walter Leigh A Midsummer Night's
Dream - Incidental music: The Fairies Dance; Wedding March;
Goossens Judith - Opera in One Act Walton: The
Boy David - Incidental music:; John St Anthony Johnson:
Pax Vobiscum Clifford Lavender Blue (English Nursery
Tunes); Phillips [Festival Overture op.71]: 'In Praise
of My Country' Recorded between 1927-52 CDBP 9766.
The present disc is an historically important
collection of special interest to British music enthusiasts and
academics. Like its companion it is attractively priced.