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John FOULDS (1880-1939)
Carnival (ca. 1934) [3:10]
The Vision of Dante Prelude (1905-08) [8:19]
Lento e Scherzetto for cello and orchestra, Op.12 (1906) BH [12:46]
Saint Joan Suite, Op.82 (1924 arr 1925)* [17:35]
Hippolytus Prelude, Op.84 No.1 (1925) BA [3:46]
Puppet Ballet Suite (1932-34) [14:43]
Badinage (1936) [5:00]
Grand Durbar March (1937-38) [6:05]
Benjamin Hughes (cello) [BH]; Bethany Akers (oboe) [BA]
BBC Concert Orchestra/Ronald Corp
rec. Abbey Road Studio No.1, London, 10-12 September 2013 [2-10, 13] & Watford Colosseum, 7 February 2014 [1, 11-12, 14-18]
World premiere recordings except*
DUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7311 [72:10]

It's difficult to credit it: there are now no fewer than four Dutton Epoch volumes of the light orchestral music of John Foulds. Celebrations are imperative. The first CD is reviewed here. The other two are CDLX7260 and CDLX7307. The admirable BBC Concert Orchestra and Ronald Corp - who also presided over Hyperion's British Light Music line - are very skilled and engaged constants throughout this series.
 
I say 'light' but that does not correctly characterise the whole of this collection. Although the frothy Carnival is in the same Offenbach-meets-Tchaikovsky on stilts 'family' as the overture Le Cabaret, The Vision of Dante prelude is something other. It's a brooding and then swirling tempest. It's not that far removed from Tchaikovsky's Francesca da Rimini - another Dante connection. As it progresses it develops a superb languishingly long-limbed melody - a most impressive and serious-minded piece. Let us hope that someone is drawn to produce the complete three-act two-hour work. There are none of the moaning-groaning experiments in tonality one comes across in the marvellous Cello Sonata of 1905 (Chandos and BMS) later to be heard in more luxurious dress in Lyra Celtica and the Three Mantras from Avatara (Warner).
 
While the charge of sentimentality can be laid at the door of the Lento of Lento e Scherzetto it's a close-run thing. It is a heart-beat away from Foulds' much more famous Keltic Lament. The Scherzetto skips along - a smoothly refined 'merry-eye' of a piece that soon succumbs to the soulful musings that characterised the Lento. This bi-partite piece would work very nicely alongside the cello and orchestra miniatures of Tchaikovsky, Glazunov and Bridge. It’s good to have another cello and orchestra piece by Foulds to place alongside the Cello Concerto (Dutton) which is in turn related very closely to the Cello Sonata. Excellent playing by Benjamin Hughes.
 
The six-movement St Joan suite is drawn from music that Foulds wrote for the original production of Shaw's St Joan. This is an impressionistic score with a soft-aired pastoral Debussian feel in the case of the Domrémy first movement. The Elgarian spindrift of the second movement is light on the aural palate. Its charm carries over into The Maid - the original overture to the play - which also has an innocent devotional air. The Orleans movement is a confidently bustling march. The groaning severity of The Martyr with its evocation of the furnace of flames is followed by an Epilogue which seems to blend Elgar and Mahler before dying away in a harp-decorated sigh.
 
With the Hippolytus Prelude we are back to the pensive pastoralism of Domrémy with an oboe solo centre-field and lovingly played by Bethany Akers.
 
The Puppet Ballet Suite takes us right back to Foulds' jolly bright-eyed light music again all served up with lashings of balletic sentimentality in the Love-Scene. The Passe-Pied might even have been influenced by Warlock's Capriol. The Dream Waltz floats along in defiance of gravity. It made me think of Holbrooke's liltingly commercial Pandora. The March Finale swings along with the delight of Dvorak's Carnival Overture as did his Le Cabaret. There's a something of the Elgar Pomp and Circumstances in its DNA too.
 
Then come two works from Foulds' Indian years. The 1936 Badinage is a sugar plum with lots of smiling pizzicato and enchantment. This is added to by three trumpets outlining a briskly moving melodic line before we return to that delicate pizzicato. The other work is the confident Grand Durbar March which has a trio based on the raga pilu. In the original the instrumentation would have included traditional Indian instruments. It makes one wonder if all hopes of ever hearing Foulds' Symphony of East and West must be abandoned. The trio is certainly one of Foulds' most exotic pieces although that impression is soon dispelled by the chest-out strut of the main march.
 
How sad that celebrations are mixed with sadness at the death of the architect of the Foulds revival, Malcolm Macdonald, who died at the age of 66 on 27 May 2014. I recall his kindness to me in the early 1980s in putting up with my fatuous questions and sending me rare tapes of Foulds' music. It should also be remembered that he was a composer of some eminence. His Waste of Seas - a Hebridean Prelude is one of the most densely imagined and atmospheric of sea pictures.
 
The sound on this Foulds CD is well up to the mark while the liner-notes are by Lewis Foreman, incorporating material prepared by Malcolm Macdonald.
 
This collection will certainly attract those who have already collected the three previous volumes. It should also be a strong draw to those of you who have enjoyed the serious concert music as recorded by Warner and Lyrita. The Warner collection is nicely represented by very recently issued Warner Apex double CD: 2564 64511-3.
 
If this is the last Foulds/Dutton CD in the Ronald Corp series then it goes out on a very high note.
 
Rob Barnett