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British Composers Conduct on Acoustic
Frederic COWEN (1852-1935)
The Butterfly's Ball Overture (1901)
Symphony Orchestra/Cowen
rec. 1916 [3:27]
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
The Sea - suite (1910-11)
London Symphony Orchestra/Frank Bridge
rec. 1923 [17:17]
Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)
Beni Mora - Oriental site (1909-10)
London Symphony Orchestra/Gustav Holst
rec. 1924 [13:57]
Charles Villiers STANFORD (1852-1924)
Songs of the Fleet op.117 (1910)
Harold Williams (baritone)
London Symphony Orchestra/Stanford
rec. 1923 [22:13]
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Fringes of the Fleet (1917)
Charles Mott, Frederick Henry, Frederick Stewart, Harry Barratt (baritones)
Symphony Orchestra/Elgar
rec. 1917 [14:09]
Landon RONALD (1873-1938)
In An Eastern Garden (No.2 from The Garden of Allah) (1920) [4:23]
Arthur Beckwith (violin)
Royal Albert Hall Orchestra/Landon Ronald
rec. 1920
DUTTON CDBP 9777 [76:13]


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 of Elgar. 

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.

Rob Barnett 



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