British Composers Premiere Collections - Volume 2
Maurice BLOWER (1894-1982) Eclogue for horn and strings (1950s) [7.07]
Robin MILFORD (1903-1959) Suite for oboe and string orchestra (1924) [11:37]
Frederick KELLY (1881-1916) Serenade for flute with accompaniment of harp, horn and string orchestra op. 7 in E minor (1911) [19:35]
Walter Gaze COOPER (1895-1981) Concertino for oboe and strings op. 78 (1957) [15:08]
Maurice BLOWER (1894-1982) Horn concerto (1952) [13:34]
Rebecca Hall (flute); John McDonough (oboe); Jose Garcia Gutierrez (horn)
Malta Philharmonic Orchestra/Michael Laus
rec. 2011, Robert Samut Hall, Floriana, Malta.
CAMEO CLASSICS CC9032CD [68.14]
 
Cameo launched this series back in 2008 with volume 1 (CC9037CD) which included Howell’s Lamia, a set of Holbrooke’s variations for orchestra and Maurice Blower’s very fine and at times Baxian symphony.
 
Blower’s two works are for French Horn and orchestra. The Eclogue is a fitting mate to the Finzi (piano and orchestra). It fits the pastoral greenery implied by the title but is by no means all sighing leafage. There’s a positive flightiness to an extended central episode before the boskily swirling sylvan zephyrs get to work again. Broadly between pastoral RVW with a tinge of non-antiquarian Warlock. A great discovery. The Horn Concerto is in three movements in a style that is romantically indulgent, brilliant and straussianly florid. Quite a showpiece to set alongside the Strauss First Horn Concerto. Jose Garcia Gutierrez is an exemplary exponent and sounds as if he is getting a kick ouit totf the music whether soloiloquising or centre-stage heoics.
 
Laus imparts a real passion to the strings in the Milford oboe suite – Milford out of Holst’s Brook Green one might say. This music has a gracious countenance, unhurried beauty and proceeds with smilingly confident dignity in the steady sensitivity of John McDonough. If you have already been captivated by the lightly lissom and unassuming orchestral Milford – perhaps through the Hyperion Fishing by Moonlight – then this is for you.
 
Kelly’s silvery neo-classical delight is in five baroque-titled movements. Rebecca Hall lends the work a fragile humanity as well as winged fantasy. Strangely enough the work several times recalled the ländler writing of Mahler and in the Air (tr. 8) a certain Mozartean mien.
 
Walter Thomas Gaze Cooper might well be an unjustly neglected figure as this Oboe Concertino suggests. The melodic interest is high and apart from an isolated surrender to a rigidly academic fugue belongs on the same latitude and longitude as the troubadour Arnold’s oboe concerto (especially the two outer movements) and on occasion touching basewith Sibelius’s moist gentle string writing. GC wrote nine symphonies for various force as well as four piano concertos and concertos for horn, violin and viola. There’s a lot more to discover and I hope that Cameo and Angela Brownridge (cousin to conductor Geoffrey Heald-Smith) will tackle the piano cocnertos. She has already recorded the Gipps and Leighton No.1 piano concertos which with some Gipps piano solos might well be issued on CD sometime in the new year all with the same orchestra and conductor. Brownridge has been very active for Cameo and before too long we should see the following Cameo CDs from her: Schumann (CC9029CD), Chopin (CC9028CD) and Liszt (CC9048CD), all recorded at Fairfield Halls. Before those releases we can hope to see CC9034CD the A C Mackenzie tone poem La Belle Dame Sans Merci, the Holbrooke Pierrot and Pierrette and at long last the Somervell Thalassa symphony which will nicely complement the Hyperion CDs of Somervell’s Violin Concerto and Normandy Variations and Scottish Piano Concerto.
 
The Malta Philharmonic Orchestra make an elite sound. Their strings are clean with a caramel and tobacco tone that outpoints Cameo’s competent but less than sumptuous Karelia Philharmonic Orchestra on CC9037CD.
 
Michael Laus’s name rang a bell. He was the conductor in the Talent DOM CD of Camilleri’s three piano concertos.
 
The concise, always interesting and factually specific notes are by that rising star of the revival of the expanding peripheries of British music, Garteh Vaughan.

Rob Barnett