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Lyrita Classics
Michael BALFE (1808-1870)
The Bohemian Girl: Galop (1843) [1:26]
Philharmonia Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaite
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Variations on an Original Theme ‘Enigma’ Op. 36: X. Dorabella (1899) [2:41]
Pomp and Circumstance March No. 5 in C Op. 39 (1930) [5:41]
New Philharmonia Orchestra/Andrew Davis
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
A Village Romeo and Juliet: The Walk to the Paradise Garden (1905) [10:49]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Myer Fredman
Percy GRAINGER (1882-1961)
Shepherd’s Hey; The Immovable Do (1908-13; 1933-42) [2:11; 5:04]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaite
Sir Hamilton HARTY (1879-1941)
An Irish Symphony: The Fair-Day (1904) [3:01]
New Philharmonia Orchestra/Vernon Handley
Peter WARLOCK (1894-1930)
Capriol, Suite for full orchestra (1926-28) [9:47]
London Symphony Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaite
Lord BERNERS (1883-1950)
The Triumph of Neptune: Hornpipe (1926) [1:50]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaite
Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)
St. Paul’s Suite for strings Op. 29 No. 2 (1913) [13:28]
English Chamber Orchestra/Imogen Holst
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis (1910) [16:08]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult
rec. Jan 1979, Kingsway Hall (Balfe); Jan 1974, Walthamstow Assembly Hall (Elgar); Jan 1970, Walthamstow Assembly Hall (Delius); Aug 1978, Kingsway Hall (Grainger; Berners); April 1976, Kingsway Hall (Harty); Sept 1978, Watford Town Hall (Warlock); Jan 1968, Walthamstow Assembly Hall (RVW)
LYRITA SRCD336 [72.15]

Experience Classicsonline


Unusually for me, I have to admit to some ambivalence about a Lyrita release. Let me be clear that the ambivalence in no way relates to the quality of the performances, which are uniformly excellent. No, my reservations concern the rather mixed-bag nature of the programme.

In particular, I see no point whatsoever in the inclusion of a single movement from the ‘Enigma’ Variations. The ‘Dorabella’ variation is a charming one but when it’s over one is expecting to plunge headlong into the ‘G.R.S.’ variation as usual. It’s something of a shock to the system, therefore, to find it succeeded by a Pomp and Circumstance march – though I’m glad to find that it’s the splendid and unfairly overshadowed Fifth march, for which Sir Andrew Davis is an ardent advocate.

Similarly, I wonder at the inclusion of just a single movement of Harty’s ‘Irish’ Symphony. I assume there’s no complete recording in the Lyrita vaults, which is a pity because on this brief showing Vernon Handley and the New Philharmonia would have been fine advocates of the whole work.

Having got the gripes out of the way, let me become positive and warmly welcome the more substantial pieces on this disc. Myer Fredman is a perceptive guide as we walk towards the Paradise Garden. This is such a gorgeous piece and Fredman plays it for all its worth, rightly pointing up the romantic nature of the music. Aided by ripe, committed playing from the LPO, he builds the piece to a suitably passionate climax (from 7:02). This is as fine an account of the piece as I know.

Just as welcome is the excellent performance of Warlock’s Capriol Suite. Indeed, in some ways it’s even more welcome because Nicholas Braithwaite opts not for the familiar string orchestra version but for the much more rarely heard version for full orchestra, which dates from 1928. The additional colour that is achieved through the use of brass and woodwind enhances this delightful set of miniatures. Braithwaite conducts very well. I like, for example, the nice flowing tempo that he adopts for ‘Pieds-en-l’Air’ and the counter-melody on woodwind in the second half of the piece adds a delightful frisson.

It’s splendid to have Imogen Holst’s account of her father’s St. Paul’s Suite restored to the catalogue – and her own personal reflections on the music as well. Miss Holst directs the piece very well indeed. There’s an excellent bounce to the ‘Jig’, poetry in the ‘Intermezzo’ and she leads a completely winning account of the finale.

But if one is looking for authority then the pick of these performances has to be Boult’s memorable reading of the ‘Tallis’ Fantasia. This originally appeared on LP with Boult’s fine account of the Rubbra Seventh Symphony – the first Rubbra recording I ever owned. There’s a wonderful dignity and sense of rightness about this performance. It may not be as red-blooded as Barbirolli’s unique and wonderful EMI recording with the Sinfonia of London but I think Boult’s noble conception of the piece is just as satisfying. This is a reading that seems to reach back across the ages, linking the twentieth century with Tudor times in a way that RVW surely intended. The strings of the LPO play quite magnificently for Sir Adrian. The sound is top-drawer: rich and full and the engineers – and Sir Adrian – separate out the tri-fold texture of string orchestra, the smaller group of strings and the solo quartet quite beautifully. This is a treasurable recording of one of the towering masterpieces of the English string orchestra repertoire.

So, despite the rather disparate nature of the programme, there is much to savour on this disc. My advice would be to buy it for the sake of the Delius, Warlock and Holst and, above all, for the sublime performance of the ‘Tallis’ Fantasia. Treat the rest of the programme as bonuses; there’s enough in the four performances I’ve singled out to make this a most rewarding purchase.

John Quinn

See also reviews by Rob Barnett and John France




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