(b. 1935) Sinfonia* (1966) [30:00]
(1920-1998) Divertimento for Brass
Quartet op. 9 (1951) [8:17] John GARDNER
(b. 1917) Theme and Variations for
Brass Quartet op. 7 (1951) [9:55] Stephen DODGSON
(b. 1924) Sonata for Brass Quintet
* English Chamber Symphony Orchestra/Norman
Philip Jones Brass Ensemble (Philip Jones,
Elgar Howarth (trumpets); Ifor James (horn);
John Iveson (trombone); John Fletcher
rec. 12 October 1970, The Maltings, Snape
(Maw); 3 December 1974, Decca Studio No.
3, London (Gardner, Dodgson, Addison).
Originally released on Argo LPs: ZRG 676
(1971) (Maw); ZRG 813 (1975). ADD.
LYRITA SRCD.307 [62:56]
This is a further welcome Lyrita collection
of 1970s British Council-originated
British music from the 1950s and 1960s.
The transfers from analogue to digital
have been done with his usual expertise
by Simon Gibson. These recordings have
never sounded as good as they sound
here. The Decca house-style delivers
ripe and vibrant sound and it still
communicates without distortion. There’s
urgency aplenty and the illusion of
dynamic differentiation is nicely captured
and put across.
The chill of dissonance
had set in for the musical establishment
during the 1950s and 1960s. The composers
championed by Lyrita elsewhere in their
catalogue had died and their music was
disdained. There was a new hegemony.
We can hear this from Maw’s Sinfonia
in which the voices of Schoenberg and
Stravinsky collude in an expertly balanced
triumph of the orchestrator’s art. It
remains an exciting work as evidenced
by the coarse-toned horn hunting fanfares
at 11:01 in the first movement and the
prancing rambunctious Stravinskian finale.
The central movement is an anxious meditation
made memorable by the solo violin’s
sensitive solo which leads the movement
to its niente close.
After the Maw – the
only orchestral work in the collection
- comes three scores for brass ensemble.
These are played by the ever adept Philip
Jones Brass Ensemble. They are put through
their paces and triumph over challenges
not just with competence but with exuberance.
Addison will be known as a composer
and TV (A Bridge Too Far;
Reach for the Sky; Murder,
She Wrote) but he also wrote concert
works including a Trumpet Concerto recorded
by Leon Rapier and in his last year,
Concertino. His compact five movement
Divertimento is witty and right
to the point – a series of caricatures
and character pieces. The finale is
a Satie-Ibert romp. Gardner has
had some long-delayed attention on CD
recently and we must hope for much
more. Here is a piece which kept his
name in the LP catalogue for at least
five years. The Theme and Variations
– here heard in a single-tracked
continuous sequence - is from the same
Festival of Britain year as the Addison.
It shares some of its jaunty confident
optimism. Particularly memorable is
the Rapsodie Espagnole-style
Havanaise at 4.30 which is most seductively
trumpeted. Stephen Dodgson’s
five movement Sonata drops the clown’s
mask and concentrates on the symphonic
side. He does this with a tender gravity
and a communicative style that kicked
back against the current of the early
1960s. His serious mien does not prevent
the finale having a lighter touch. Plenty
to engage heart and head in this work.
Do try his orchestral music as well:
We are led through
this unfamiliar music by the illuminating
writing of Paul Conway whose accessible
and informative style satisfied both
generalist – like yours truly – and
those with more technical knowledge.
Music of the 1950s
and 1960s spanning the cultural mainstream
with Maw and the more accessible fringe
accommodated in the welcoming realm
of the small brass ensemble. Performances
that are virtuosic in their brilliance
of despatch and in their poetry.
Other Maw on Lyrita
Scenes and Arias SRCD.267
Sonata for two horns and strings SRCD.335
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