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CD: Crotchet

Elinor Remick WARREN (1900-1991)
The Crystal Lake (1946) [8:03]
Scherzo (1924 orch. 1938)* [2:49]
The Fountain (1933 orch. 1938)* [4:17]
The Legend of King Arthur (1939) ((i) Intermezzo (ii) Aria: King Arthur’s Farewell (1939 arr. 1941)*[10:13]
Along the Western Shore (1941-47 orch. 1942-54) [12:02]
Symphony in One Movement (1970) [16:50]
Suite for Orchestra (1954) [20:31]
Roderick Williams (baritone: King Arthur)
Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Ronald Corp
BBC Concert Orchestra/Martin Yates
*World premiere recording
rec. Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, 4-5 August 2009; The Colosseum, Town Hall, Watford, 6 October 2009

Experience Classicsonline

Why do we not know more about the American composer Elinor Remick Warren? Lewis Foreman’s notes recount her life-story in extenso. However do also have a look at Pamela Blevin’s even more detailed major article elsewhere on this site. This Los Angeles born and based composer studied for an intensive three month period with Nadia Boulanger in Paris in 1959. A number of her works found their way on to the Cambria label including the superb oratorio The Legend of King Arthur excerpted on this disc and given its UK premiere in 1995 by Richard Hickox at the Goucester Three Choirs Festival . Her orchestral songs can also be found on Cambria. The Crystal Lake is a warm, romantic Delian piece inspired by encountering a lake of this name during a 1940s holiday in the High Sierras. The Scherzo has an ever so slightly malevolent elfin bounce. This is counterweighted by a fine noble melody for the strings with the mellifluous mercuriality of Smetana’s Vltava.

The Fountain
is just as serene as The Crystal Lake which despite a slight Hollywood patina is redolent of the noblest extension in Vaughan Williams’ Prelude to The 49th Parallel. Warren’s worklist is overshadowed by two works of majestic proportions and forces: The Legend of King Arthur and the Requiem. From the former we get to hear the fine orchestral Intermezzo which is delightful, swoons lavishly in a sort of hybrid of Delian poetry and, just occasionally, the swooping romance of a Waxman film score. After this comes King Arthur’s Farewell superbly sung by Roderick Williams. Here the score is again indebted pleasingly to Delius’s Sea-Drift and Once I Passed Through a Populous City. The contour of the melody occasionally veered towards Coleridge-Taylor’s Hiawatha a little too close for comfort. The text is given in the booklet in full though the singer’s diction is such that you will not need it. Along the Western Shore is a three movement orchestral suite: (i) Dark Hills; (ii) Nocturne; (iii) Sea Rhapsody. The Dark Hills are plagued with desperately oppressive dark clouds that obliterate the lighter qualities of life. After such angst the Nocturne comes as a typically Delian relaxation out of the same contented compartment as The Crystal Lake and The Fountain.

The Sea Rhapsody is a tempestuous affair and in it one can perhaps hear the roots of other such essays especially the comber-dashing emotional turbulence of Flagello’s Sea Cliffs. The compact Symphony subsumes into its fabric three sections in an idiom which is passionate, at times Baxian, at times noble in the manner of Elgar and yet reflects open-air Americana.

The last work is the four episode Suite for Orchestra. Its movements are: (i) Black Cloud Horses; (ii) Cloud Peaks; (iii) Scherzino: Ballet of the Midsummer Sky; (iv) Pageant across the Sky. This is akin in its unsettled emotional upheavals to the outer movements of Along the Western Shore. Its inspiration lies in the family’s five hundred acre ranch in the High Sierras - the cloudscapes set against the Delian Heights, the storms and calm sunny days. There were several moments when it had me thinking of Delius’s Song of the High Hills. The Berlioz-like impish capering of the third movement recalled the Scherzino in tr. 2. Pageant Across the Sky is the finale. It has a conspiratorial nocturnal air to it at first but rises to stirring heights worthy of the mountain landscape.

This is irresistible stuff: lavishly driven by a neo-romantic lyrical impulse which should rapidly find an enthusiastic audience for more from this source and new complete recordings of The Requiem and The Legend of King Arthur.

Rob Barnett 















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