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Lyrita Fiftieth Anniversary boxed sets - 50 legendary recordings

Lyrita - Celebrating Fifty Years devoted to British Music - Set One
CD 1 [73:53]
William ALWYN Symphonic Prelude - The Magic Island - LPO/Alwyn [10:11]
Malcolm ARNOLD English Dances - Set 2 - LPO/Arnold [9:49]
Bach orch. Henry WOOD Toccata and Fugue in D Minor - LPO/Braithwaite [9:49]
Granville BANTOCK
Russian Scenes - LPO/Wordsworth [14:13]
Arnold BAX Northern Ballad No.1 - LPO/Boult [10:09]
Arthur BENJAMIN Overture to an Italian Comedy - RPO/Fredman [6:17]
William Sterndale BENNETT
Caprice in E - Malcolm Binns (piano) LPO/Braithwaite [13:17]
CD 2 [75:21]
Lennox BERKELEY Serenade for Strings - LPO/Berkeley [13:14]
Arthur BLISS
Adam Zero - Suite - excerpt - LSO/Bliss [8:53]
Suite for String Orchestra - LPO/Boult [20:50]
William BUSCH Cello Concerto (II) Raphael Wallfisch (cello) - RPO/Handley [6:51]
Geoffrey BUSH Overture - Yorick - NPO/Handley [8:30]
George BUTTERWORTH A Shropshire Lad Rhapsody - LPO/Boult [8:38]
From Meadow to Mayfair Suite (excerpt) - NPO/Boult [8:14]
CD 3 [74:28]
Samuel COLERIDGE-TAYLOR Valse de la Reine - LPO/Wordsworth [4:32]
Arnold COOKE Jabez and The Devil - Suite - LPO/Braithwaite [18:02]
Frederick DELIUS The Walk to the Paradise Garden - LPO/Fredman [10:53]
Gerald FINZI Eclogue Peter Katin (piano) - NPO/Handley [10:32]
John FOULDS Mantra of Bliss - LPO/Wordsworth [13:06]
Cecil Armstrong GIBBS Fancy Dress - Dance Suite - RPO/Joly [17:20]
CD 4 [67:58]
Ruth GIPPS Horn Concerto - David Pyatt (horn) LPO/Braithwaite [17:14]
Patrick HADLEY
One Morning in Spring - LPO/Boult [3:56]
Alun HODDINOTT Welsh Dances Set 2 - NYOW/Davison [9:04]
Gustav HOLST
Japanese Suite - LSO/Boult [11:01]
Herbert HOWELLS Merry-Eye - NPO/Boult [8:52]
Variations on a Hungarian Air - LPO/Braithwaite [10:36]
The Forgotten Rite - Prelude - LPO/Boult [7:05]
rec. 1966-2007. ADD/DDD
LYRITA SRCD.2337 [4 CDs: 73:53 + 75:21 + 74:28 + 67:58]

Lyrita - Celebrating Fifty Years devoted to British Music - Set Two
CD 1 [67:46]
Gordon JACOB Symphony No.1 (I) - LPO/Wordsworth [10:08]
Daniel JONES
Dance Fantasy - BBCWSO/Thomson [7:43]
John JOUBERT Symphony No.1 (IV) - LPO/Handley [9:56]
Constant LAMBERT
Music for Orchestra - LPO/Wordsworth [13:17]
Walter LEIGH Concertino for Harpsichord and Strings - Trevor Pinnock (harpsichord) - LPO/Braithwaite [9:29]
George LLOYD Symphony No.4 (I) - PO/Downes [17:08]
CD 2 [77:51]
Elizabeth MACONCHY Music for Strings - LPO/Wordsworth [18:23]
Sinfonietta - NYOW/Davison [13:09]
E. J. MOERAN Rhapsody No.2 - LPO/Boult [13:18]
Hubert PARRY
Symphonic Variations - LSO/Boult [12:51]
Symphonic Studies - LPO/Pritchard [20:02]
CD 3 [79:13]
Cyril ROOTHAM Symphony in C minor (IV) - LPO/Handley [7:24]
Edmund RUBBRA Symphony No.4 (I) - PO/Del Mar [13:04]
Cyril SCOTT Early One Morning - John Ogdon (piano) LPO/Herrmann [14:48]
Charles V. STANFORD Irish Rhapsody No.4 - LPO/Braithwaite [18:52]
Robert STILL Symphony No.3 (II) - LSO/Goossens [11:27]
Phyllis TATE
London Fields - LPO/Wordsworth [13:05]
CD 4 [73:04]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Tallis Fantasia - LPO/Boult [16:16]
William WALTON Music for Children - LPO/Walton [13:15]
Peter WARLOCK An Old Song - LPO/Boult [5:56]
Ballads for Orchestra - BBCWSO/Handley [17:10]
Santiago de Espada - RLPO/Groves [6:32]
William WORDSWORTH Symphony No.3 (II) - LPO/Braithwaite [13:46]
rec. 1966-2007. ADD/DDD
LYRITA SRCD.2338 [4 CDs: 67:46 + 77:51 + 79:13 + 73:04]

Experience Classicsonline

For this reviewer, it seems absolutely fortuitous that this stunning collection of British orchestral music commences with Bill Alywn’s Symphonic Prelude: The Magic Island. Let me explain.

In 1972 I was a teenager who had recently discovered classical music in general and British music in particular. I was lying in bed one Saturday morning as teenagers do, listening to Stereo Review on Radio Three. In those days, as I was trying to expand my musical knowledge: it was essential listening. I must have nodded off but I gradually became aware a piece of romantic music that just seemed to suggest the swing of the sea. I sat up and listened, although I had no clue as to what it was. At the end of the piece the announcer gave composer and title: I had never heard of either. As soon as I was up and dressed I headed into Glasgow. At that time there was a fine record shop called Cuthbertsons in Cambridge Street. It is long gone, but then it had a reasonably good selection of classical vinyl. After a brief search I found the album with its distinctive cover in the browsers. The Prelude was coupled with the composer’s great Third Symphony. I recall it was quite expensive and I had to raid my ‘emergency fund’ to secure. But I was delighted. I read the sleeve-notes by William Mann over and over again. When I got home it was straight onto the record deck and, Boy! was I impressed. I had never heard anything like it. At that time I knew Debussy’s La Mer: I had not yet heard Bridge’s The Sea or even RVW’s Sea Symphony. But I guess what surprised me most was that here was a living - at that time - British composer who had written such exciting, romantic, impressionistic and energetic music. It was the start of my love affair with Lyrita Records.

A few months later, I found a Lyrita catalogue somewhere and was both delighted and horrified to discover that there were a considerable number of records - all of which seemed ‘musts’ for my slowly expanding collection. Like many people, I bought them as and when I could - Christmas presents, birthday gifts and the occasional lucky find at the inimitable Glasgow institution called The Barras!

In the late ’seventies I moved to York. There I discovered the Aladdin’s cave of Banks Music Shop. At that time the gentleman who managed the record department was an authority on both British music and the Lyrita record company. We had long conversations. He was able to order me many of the early mono LPs that I had never before seen in the shops. Over the next ten years or so I managed to collect more or less all the LPs. There was one noted in an old copy of the Gramophone Catalogue that I never found - the Villa Lobos piano works played by Elizabeth Powell. It was to remain elusive until just a few weeks ago when Lyrita issued it on a fine double CD.

And then disaster struck! Someone invented the CD. Like many people I guess that I hoped it would not ‘take off’ - but it did! And where did that leave my collection of Lyrita vinyl? I am careful with books and records and discs, but over the years some of my favourites became a little careworn. I even bought an additional copy of Jack Moeran’s Cello Concerto as I felt I could not live without it, should I scratch or damage my copy. So, like many folk I had to stop being a Luddite and prepare to open my wallet!

One day, my record dealer at Banks told me that Lyrita were about to release some CDs. I knew that I would have to update. He also told me that there was a problem at the record company. It seemed that Richard Itter was not prepared to transfer the entire back catalogue to the new format. In fact, the man at Banks Music felt that most of these historic recordings would largely disappear into the archives. Tantalisingly, he told me that many more British works had been recorded and that they would probably never see the light of day. A little later some 31 CDs were issued, and naturally I had to buy most of them.

And finally a few years ago it was announced that the entire back catalogue was to be released on CD. But most interesting of all was a wide variety of works that had never been released on vinyl was to be included as a part of this project. What the Banks record shop manager had told me really had been true!

I do not intend to pick over the content of these eight CDs - this has been done admirably by the Classical Editor. However I will point out what are to me some of the highlights of this selection. The present collection is excellent in so far as there are relatively few extracts of single movements from symphonies or concertos. Out of some fifty works there are only eight or so symphonic movements. Virtually all the other pieces are stand-alone works that could be offered at a concert.

The fifty compositions are presented in composer-alphabetical order across the eight CDs. Naturally, I was delighted with Alwyn’s The Magic Island. But immediately after this Prelude is the lesser-known of Sir Malcolm Arnold’s English Dances: the second set. Bax is represented by his “impression of the fiery romantic life of the Highlands of Scotland”, the Northern Ballad No.1. I am always delighted to hear any performance of Lennox Berkeley’s Serenade for Strings and this version conducted by the composer is ideal. Peter Katin’s performance as soloist in Gerald Finzi’s Eclogue holds a special place in my affections. This is one of my favourite works and it was this version that introduced it to me many years ago. I am delighted that John Foulds’ Mantra of Bliss has been included as this is representative of a great work (the Three Mantras) that remains relatively unknown. Alun Hoddinott’s fine second set of Welsh Dances is a treat as is Herbert Howells’ Merry Eye. I could have noted works by Bantock, Bridge, Delius, Ireland and Hurlstone, but special mention must be given to Ruth Gipps’ Horn Concerto and Patrick Hadley’s One Morning in Spring.

The second set contains an equally impressive collection. I was pleased to see the first movement of Daniel Jones’s Dance Fantasy and the Sinfonietta by fellow Welshman William Mathias were selected. I was equally impressed with the fine recording of Cyril Scott’s Early One Morning with John Ogdon as the soloist. I was glad that Parry was represented by his great Symphonic Variations and Stanford by his Irish Rhapsody No.4: The Fisherman of Lough Neagh and what he saw. It is important that Cyril Rootham’s fine First Symphony has been excerpted; this is a work that demands to be better known. The same can be said of Robert Still’s Third and Gordon Jacob’s First. The only piece that was absolutely new to me was the superb Overture: Santiago de Esapda by Malcolm Williamson. Finally, I feel that it was a good decision to include Peter Warlock’s An Old Song for small orchestra rather than the better known Capriol Suite or Serenade

I feel guilty omitting the many other fine works that make up this compilation but if I am honest each and every one of these fifty pieces makes up a fine overview of all that is best in British music. Each listener will be struck by a different set of favourites.

The question I have asked myself is this. Who is going to buy this double-boxed 8 CD set? I for one have virtually all these recording and pieces as part of my collection. I am sure that many readers of MusicWeb International will be the same. So I sat in the garden one warm October day and puzzled. Like the vicar once said, there are three points: three groups of people that this collection will appeal to. Firstly, there may well be those music enthusiasts who are comfortable with the ‘big’ pieces of British music - Elgar’s Cello Concerto, Vaughan Williams’s Tallis Fantasia and Fred Delius’s Walk to Paradise Gardens. But the rest of the corpus of British music is a closed book. They may not have the courage (or the wherewithal) to go into HMV and buy a CD of Symphonies by Robert Still or John Joubert’s Symphony No.1 on a whim. They have no way of really knowing whether they would like it or not. And even if they listen to short 30 second extracts on the ’Net, it is hardly a basis for forming an opinion. So for these people this collection could be an ideal gift or introductory sampler. It will allow them to explore further and confidently to purchase recordings of music and composers of which they have no or little knowledge.

The second group of people that it occurred to me that this set will appeal to are those who feel that just want to listen to some British music. They are perhaps a little tired of the half a dozen favourites played day in and day out on Classic FM and feel they want a bit more variety: and a new challenge. They want to be introduced to the wealth of British music but have neither the time nor the inclination to investigate under their own steam. They want a package of great music that is ready made for them. I can think of no better purchase than these eight CDs.

And thirdly, it will be a required purchase for all collectors of things Lyrita. I imagine there are a fair few folk out there who have virtually everything that the company has produced over the past fifty years. This collection will be a fine overview of their stack of vinyl and drawers full of CDs. A kind of keepsake, really. As a self-confessed musical snob, I have usually avoided extracts and samplers. It is the complete work for me. But there are occasions when there is just not the time to listen to a complete symphony of concerto. Sometimes a movement has to do. I for one will use this set as a source of inspiration when I have only a few minutes to spare. Like many people I will put it onto my iPOD and will enjoy picking out a track or two whilst sitting at the station waiting on the train to London Euston.

A few final observations. Paul Conway has done an excellent job in producing short and straight-to-the-point sleeve-notes for this edition. Normally I like an essay on each work, but in this particular case brevity is entirely appropriate. Secondly, unlike many ‘samplers’ there is a complete track-listing along with details of orchestras, soloists and conductors. Also noted are the catalogue numbers of the CDs where each track has been extracted. The Editor has regretted that the dates and location of the recording are omitted. Maybe this would have made the listings a touch unwieldy. However, most of these works have been reviewed on MusicWeb and this information can easily be found there. There are two fascinating personal recollections of Richard Itter by Edward Greenfield and Lewis Foreman. Both are required reading for all Lyrita enthusiasts. And finally the booklets have been graced with some dozen excellent photographs of some of the conductors.

John France 

see also review by Rob Barnett

Editor’s Note
Lyrita are offering a free limited edition poster to people who purchase the sets. Inside each box will be a bounce-back card and as long as people fill in their postal address they will be sent a copy of the poster. The Poster is A3 in size and features eleven rare and unique photographs taken at Lyrita recording sessions including Kenneth Wilkinson, Sir Adrian Boult, Tod Handley, Joy Finzi, Norah Kirby (John Ireland's house-keeper), John Ogdon, Elizabeth Maconchy, and even Richard Itter. 


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