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Percy Aldridge GRAINGER (1882–1961)
Salute to Percy Grainger
See below review for full list of contents
DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 2205 [73:18 + 44:34]

Experience Classicsonline

The half centenary of Grainger’s death falls this year (2011). We can be sure that there will be many related events and these include the issue of this set. The music is not specially well proportioned across the two discs but there are reasons for that and the asking price is not high. It’s just a pity that Universal did not have more Grainger in their vaults. Bargain price, high quality of performances and vintage Decca recordings will mean that for some people this will be enough Grainger for their ears and shelves. Ignoring The Warriors for a few moments – difficult to do - the recordings are classics of the analogue era drawn from recordings first issued on vinyl LP under Britten (SXL6410, 1969) and Steuart Bedford (SXL6872, 1978). The first disc is a direct clone of the Salute to Percy Grainger issued in 1989 as part of ‘The British Collection’ on Decca-London 425 159-2. Out and out Graingerians will need both this set and the stunning Grainger Edition from Chandos (CHAN 10638, 19 CDs).

Shepherd’s Hey instantly announces that this is a powerfully recorded piece of engineering in the red-blooded yet unglaring way that was time a hallmark of Decca recordings. The sound of each instrument emerges with pleasingly natural quality. The performance defines zest and buoyancy. Willow Willow surely owes a nod to Dowland. The guitar adds magical spatial depth to the experience. The superbly drilled Ambrosian Singers rap out I’m Seventeen Come Sunday. John Shirley-Quirk was a magister among baritones and one of the ‘magic circle’ among concert singers of the 1960s and 1970s. He leads us through that tale of betrayal and vengeance, Bold William Taylor in fine style and varies his voice to catch the maidenly quality of one of the interlocutors. Shallow Brown also features the wonderful Shirley-Quirk with the tensely trembling Ambrosians and ECO. He comes back for Steuart Bedford in a resonant wide-river reading of Shenandoah, a subtle and mournful Dollar and a Half a Day and a melancholy Stormy. He is joined by Anna Reynolds for the bell-haunted Under a Bridge.

The caressing and coaxing of My Robin is sunnily warmed in Delian harmonies by the ECO. There’s a roomy distance and well calculated depth of image to the Fanfare. Viola Tunnard and Britten relish the intricate and intimate patterning of Let’s Dance Gay complete with its fleeting allusions to Warlock’s cod-pieces. One of the crowns of this set is the Scotch Strathspey and Reel. You are brought right up to the feet of the players in this recording with every beguiling detail laid crisply out for your ears. Then there are two gentle songs from Pears and Britten. Lisbon for wind ensemble rollicks and smiles with the best - complete with its deliciously strange and harmonically colliding cross-currents. The Lost Lady Found is gloriously done and is such a fine and rhythmically sharp-focused piece. Grainger’s choral Brigg Fair is nicely done by the surgingly ardent Lindens and Pears. Green Bushes has the pattering and patterned impetus and sheer momentum of Lisbon but is so much more intricate and satisfying across this wider canvas. The wind-band coaxings of The Merry King make way for Pears and Osian Ellis in the plaintive Six Dukes Went a-Fishing. Pears is accompanied by the Ambrosians and Bedford again in Three Ravens which has resonances of Warlock’s Corpus Christi as does the woodwind’s softly buffeted Died for Love – with Anna Reynolds. Grainger can be heard playing Country Gardens from May 1927 amid a hush-bed of hiss. The passionate Power of Love again returns us to Peter Pears whose voice is found here to be in pretty good fettle – though that incipient nasal bray is never far distant. The harmonium adds a tang to the ECO’s elite playing.

Britten never recorded The Warriors though I think he may have conducted it at The Maltings. Universal did however have access to John Eliot Gardiner’s smashing version with the Philharmonia. It was originally harnessed to The Planets on a DG compact disc. It’s the only digital recording on the set and sounds glorious. It is a great kaleidoscopic and exuberant eruption of a piece with incidental echoes of gamelan, Stravinsky’s Rite, Straussian rapture and Ravel’s Daphnis and Rapsodie Espagnole. Decca and Eloquence did well indeed to add this to the mix. It is the prime recommendation among the few recorded versions of this extraordinary phantasmagoria of a work.

The notes are by Peter Pears, John Bird (Grainger biographer) and Stephen Lloyd (eminent British music authority and advocate). The booklet includes all the sung words.

A very substantial helping of the essential Grainger in performances and recordings that are exemplars to the rest – praise-be!

Rob Barnett

Track listing
CD 1 [73:18]
Shepherd’s hey [2:15]
English Chamber Orchestra/Benjamin Britten
Willow Willow [4:01]
Peter Pears (tenor); Members of the English Chamber Orchestra/Benjamin Britten
I’m seventeen come Sunday [2:57]
Ambrosian Singers; Members of the English Chamber Orchestra/Benjamin Britten
Bold William Taylor [3:35]
John Shirley-Quirk (baritone); English Chamber Orchestra/Benjamin Britten
There was a pig went out to dig [1:58]
Ambrosian Singers
My Robin is to the green wood gone [5:35]
Members of the English Chamber Orchestra/Benjamin Britten
Lord Maxwell’s goodnight [3:28]
Peter Pears (tenor); English Chamber Orchestra/Benjamin Britten
The Duke of Marlborough fanfare [2:15]
Members of the English Chamber Orchestra/Benjamin Britten
Let’s dance gay in green meadow [3:02]
Viola Tunnard, Benjamin Britten (pianos)
Scotch Strathspey and Reel [7:52]
Ambrosian Singers; English Chamber Orchestra/Benjamin Britten
Two Songs: The pretty maid milkin’ her cow - The sprig of thyme [3:59]
Peter Pears (tenor); Benjamin Britten (piano)
Lisbon [1:23]
Members of the English Chamber Orchestra/Benjamin Britten
The lost lady found [2:51]
Ambrosian Singers; English Chamber Orchestra/Benjamin Britten
Shallow Brown [5:34]
John Shirley-Quirk (baritone); Ambrosian Singers
English Chamber Orchestra/Benjamin Britten
Molly on the shore [3:47]
Members of the English Chamber Orchestra/Steuart Bedford
Shenandoah [1:39]
John Shirley-Quirk (baritone); Wandsworth Boys Choir
Linden Singers/Steuart Bedford
Danny Boy [5:13]
Members of the English Chamber Orchestra/Steuart Bedford
Brigg Fair [2:28]
Peter Pears (tenor); Linden Singers/Steuart Bedford
Green bushes – Passacaglia on an English folksong [8:15]
English Chamber Orchestra/Steuart Bedford
CD 2 [44:34]
Under a bridge [3:08]
John Shirley-Quirk (baritone); Anna Reynolds (mezzo)
Members of the English Chamber Orchestra/Steuart Bedford
Dollar and a half a day [3:43]
John Shirley-Quirk (baritone); Wandsworth Boys Choir
Linden Singers/Steuart Bedford
The merry king [3:11]
Members of the English Chamber Orchestra/Steuart Bedford
Six Dukes went a-fishin’ [2:55]
Peter Pears (tenor); Osian Ellis (harp)
Stormy [1:19]
John Shirley-Quirk (baritone); Wandsworth Boys Choir
Linden Singers/Steuart Bedford
The three ravens [3:25]
Peter Pears (tenor); Linden Singers
Members of the English Chamber Orchestra/Steuart Bedford
Died for love [1:14]
Anna Reynolds (mezzo)
Members of the English Chamber Orchestra/Steuart Bedford
Country gardens [1:48]
Percy Grainger (piano)
The power of love [3:24]
Sir Peter Pears (tenor); Members of the English Chamber Orchestra/Steuart Bedford
The hunter in his career [1:34]
Wandsworth Boys Choir; Members of the English Chamber Orchestra/Steuart Bedford
The Warriors [18:22]
Philharmonia Orchestra/John Eliot Gardiner (Associate conductor: Achim Holub)
rec. The Maltings: Concert Hall, Snape, UK, December 1968 (CD 1: 1-14), November 1972 (CD 1: 15-19, CD 2: 1-3, 5-7, 9-10), March 1976 (CD 2: 4); unknown location, May 1927 (CD2: 8); All Hallows, Gospel Oak, London, UK, February 1994 (The Warriors). ADD/DDD (Warriors)



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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