One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here
 

 

International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger              Founding Editor: Rob Barnett              Contact Seen and Heard here

Some items
to consider

  • Henze Kammermusik 1958
  • Mozart Flute Quartets
  • Schubert complete piano works
  • Sammartini: 6 Concerti grossi
  • Henze Kammermusik 1958
 
Tudor



CD and Blue-ray Audio


CD and Blue-ray Audio


CPE Bach Cantatas
a revelation


Biber: Sacred Choral Works
Don't miss it


Jonathan Dove


Tommie Haglund
Unique and Powerful music


Organ Fireworks


Highly Entertaining


A triumphant performance


Bruckner Symphony 4
One of the finest I have heard


A most joy-inducing recording


A winning partnership


A Lohengrin to treasure.

 

REVIEW
RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Plain text for smartphones & printers

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Sir Charles Groves: British Music
rec. 1968-1983
WARNER CLASSICS 2564 614724 [24 CDs: c. 28 hrs]

To commemorate the centenary of the birth of Sir Charles Groves (1915-1992), Warner Classics has released a 24 CD box set of British Music that the conductor recorded for EMI. Groves is probably best known as a great champion of British music but was not a figure that courted publicity. It’s certainly good news that his recorded legacy of British music is now being recognised and not fading into relative obscurity. It can so easily happen.br> At this point a brief biography might be useful. London-born Groves was a student at the Royal College of Music, London. He became a freelance accompanist who worked for the BBC and in 1938 was engaged as chorus-master of the BBC Music Productions Unit. From 1944 to 1951 Groves conducted the BBC Northern Orchestra undertaking much studio work for radio. Moving away from the studio he was appointed to the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and was there from 1951 to 1961. This led him to collaborate with the orchestra in its residency for Welsh National Opera from 1961 to 1963. Groves’ most renowned appointment was as Principal Conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (RLPO) a post that he held from 1963 to 1977. He also conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO), was Music Director of English National Opera in 1978/79 and had an association with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain plus considerable work with guest conducting engagements. I also recall in the 1970s Groves being entrusted with conducting three Last Nights of the Proms. Although acknowledged as a British music specialist Groves did conduct other music including recordings of Haydn, Brahms, Faure, Ravel, Satie, Tchaikovsky and Sibelius.

Spanning over 100 years of British composition these EMI recordings were largely recorded in the 1970s with the dates of the recordings running from the earliest in 1968 through to 1983. On this collection Groves principally conducts the RLPO with the recording output usually produced at the Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool. A handful of the recordings were made with the RPO, London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO), the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) and the BSO. The majority of these recordings are of orchestral works with the best known being Elgar’s Enigma Variations. In addition there are a modest number of symphonies all rarely performed namely the Bliss A Colour Symphony, Sullivan’s Irish Symphony, Malcolm Arnold’s Symphony No. 2 and Havergal Brian’s Symphonies 8 and 9. Notable are several substantial works for vocal soloists/chorus and orchestra such as Elgar’s The Light of Life ‘Lux Christi’, The Black Knight, Caractacus and The Crown of India suite, Delius’s Sea Drift and A Mass of Life; Holst’s Hymn of Jesus and Bliss’s Morning Heroes. Two operas are included, Delius’s Koanga and the Vaughan Williams, Hugh the Drover both valuable works and rarely encountered in the opera house. Surprisingly there are only two concertos; the Elgar Violin Concerto with Hugh Bean as soloist and the unfamiliar Saxo-Rhapsody with Jack Brymer as soloist. Several articles I have seen mention Groves’ championing of Tippett’s music but there is nothing of that composer on this Warner collection. Three short works from the film world are duplicated in performances by different orchestras namely Eric Coates’ The Dam Busters (March) and two Walton pieces Touch her Soft Lips and Part and Agincourt Song from Henry V as arranged by Muir Mathieson.

The first six CDs are given over to Elgar with a cross-section of his output ranging from the part-song with orchestral accompaniment The Snow to the lengthy and substantial cantata Caractacus. Delius is the focus of the next six CDs including Paris (The Song of a Great City); North Country Sketches; Sea Drift; The Song of the High Hills; A Mass of Life and the opera Koanga. Well represented are Groves’s excursions into lighter music. These derive from the album "The Best of Eric Coates" (CD 22) including By the Sleepy Lagoon, The Dam Busters (March) recorded 1968, Springtime in Angus (Elizabeth of Glamis) from The Three Elizabeths (Suite) and the Saxo-Rhapsody. On a further disc (CD 21) we find the Three Bears Suite, Cinderella Phantasy and a later 1970 account of The Dam Busters (March). In addition there are six attractive overtures from Arthur Sullivan operettas (CD 23). Surprisingly there is little music by Vaughan Williams, just two works: the romantic ballad opera Hugh the Drover (CDs 13/14) and Dawn Patrol from the suite drawn from the film score for Coastal Command as arranged by Muir Mathieson (CD 15). Other film music includes Walton’s Spitfire Prelude and Fugue arranged from the film score for The First of the Few, the suites arranged from Walton’s acclaimed Shakespeare film scores starring Sir Laurence Olivier, Richard III and Henry V and the Funeral March from Hamlet all arranged by Muir Mathieson (CD 20). In addition there is music from Bliss’s Things to Come where Christopher Palmer is responsible for the arrangement (CD 19).

After working my way through the collection I was struck by the remarkably high standard of performance. I have singled out a number of recordings that I feel especially stand out. Elgar’s captivating Nursery Suite (CD 1) is enchantingly performed and the Delius A Song of Summer (CD 7) is a glorious account with Groves also excelling in Paris - Song of a Great City, a magnificently evocative work. The Delius scores are particularly well rendered with Groves painting such strong images with his steadfast direction of North Country Sketches and Sea Drift (CD 8). Such an underrated work, A Mass of Life (CDs 9/10) based on Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical Also sprach Zarathustra and the engaging The Song of the High Hills (CD 12) could hardly receive finer advocacy. Groves’s account of Holst’s The Hymn of Jesus (CD 15) is impressive in every way and Havergal Brian’s characteristic pair of Symphonies 8 and 9 (CD 16) receive commanding performances. The Frank Bridge disc contains five works including his two masterworks The Sea (suite) and Enter Spring (rhapsody) (CD 17) which are engaging and revealing. Bliss’s Morning Heroes (CD 18) a choral symphony for orator, chorus and orchestra is a much underrated work with a powerful message of the horrors of war. Dedicated ‘To the Memory of my brother Francis Kennard Bliss and all other Comrades killed in battle’ Bliss sets poems by Homer, Walt Whitman, Wilfred Owen, Li Tai Po and Robert Nichols. The part for speaker, taken by John Westbrook, tends to make this intensely moving score sound unfashionable today.

Especially successful is the disc (CD 20) titled "Popular Music of William Walton". This comprises a number of Walton’s shorter orchestral works commencing with a tremendously exciting account of Spitfire: Prelude and Fugue, Scapino: A Comedy Overture, Crown Imperial (Coronation March 1937), Johannesburg Festival Overture, Capriccio burlesco with pieces from Hamlet and Richard III in arrangements by Muir Mathieson. The only exception to the merit of these works is an uninspiring account of the 1953 Coronation March: Orb and Sceptre. It’s a shame that Groves didn’t record Walton’s splendid Portsmouth Point and Partita; they're both high quality works. The next disc is admirable too (CD 21) and includes more excellent Walton performances of Hamlet and Ophelia: A poem for orchestra and the Suite from Henry V again as arranged by Muir Mathieson. Also included on CD 21 is music from Eric Coates with an exhilarating 1976 account of The Dam Busters (March) and the two 'Phantasies' Three Bears and Cinderella, all unchallenging music yet completely enchanting. Stirring and well known is the March Past of the Royal Air Force that Sir Henry Walford Davies left in short piano score with Sir George Dyson adding some extra music and preparing the orchestration. There is also Sir Henry Wood’s arrangement of the traditional Hornpipe from the Fantasia on British Sea Songs and Thomas Arne’s music to Rule, Britannia arranged by Sir Malcolm Sargent. Under the title of "The Best of Eric Coates" (CD 22) is another set of excellent music of a lighter undemanding character that has rather fallen out of fashion. Best known is the well known Valse-serenade - By the Sleepy Lagoon used in the long running BBC Radio 4 series "Desert Island Discs" and From Meadow to Mayfair suite, Springtime in Angus (Elizabeth of Glamis) from The Three Elizabeths suite, Wood Nymphs (Valsette), Music Everywhere ‘Rediffusion March’ and the Saxo-Rhapsody. Nor should we forget At the Dance from the Summer Days suite, London (London Everyday) and the suite London Again. There is also the second account in this set: an earlier 1968 recording of The Dam Busters (March). One disc is given over to Sir Arthur Sullivan and makes an impressive case for his unfairly neglected Symphony in E Irish (CD 23) with Groves obtaining a terrific response from his Liverpool players. There's also a treasurable sequence of Sullivan’s charming overtures to six of the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas (CD 23). Certainly worthy of attention is the final disc (CD 24) notable for Groves’s sterling accounts with the BSO of Sir Malcolm Arnold’s magnificent English Dances (Sets 1 and 2) and a boldly persuasive performance of the badly neglected Symphony No. 2. There is a special connection here as Arnold dedicated the score to the BSO and Groves, a partnership that introduced the work in 1953.

Not surprisingly with a set as considerable as this there are several individual works that disappoint although there are no performances that I would simply dismiss as totally without merit. Elgar’s Severn Suite (CD 1) feels rather leaden; there is a routine Imperial March and both the Enigma Variations (CD 5) and the Violin Concerto (CD 6) played by Hugh Bean lag some way behind the finest recordings. Delius’s Eventyr (Once Upon a Time) and A Dance Rhapsody No. 1 (CD 7) lack ideal buoyancy. Two minor grumbles are that Sir George Dyson’s work on Walford Davies’s The March Past of the Royal Air Force (CD 21) is uncredited here. Also there is a slight mistake in the annotation on CD 19 which indicates a track as 28 when it should be track 27.

Mainly recorded at Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool with a number of works from No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London and Kingsway Hall, London I am eminently satisfied with the overall stereo sound. A big let-down is the disappointing essay in the booklet notes that doesn’t even provide a brief biography of Groves which should be de rigueur for a collection such as this. Although I can understand why Warner has side-stepped providing sung texts the label should at least have made them available on-line. I doubt that the stiff card box that holds the 24 CDs in card slip-cases will stand a great deal of use. Nevertheless I’m delighted that the original cover art has been kept where possible. Lovers of British Music will surely relish this impressive collection. It's a splendid tribute to Groves as a much admired champion of British music.

Michael Cookson

Full Contents List
CD 1 [65.05]
Edward ELGAR (1865-1934)
Nursery Suite
Grania and Diarmid, Op. 42 - Funeral March
Severn Suite, Op. 87
Meditation from The Light of Life 'Lux Christi' oratorio, Op. 29
Caractacus, Op. 35, Woodland Interlude (Intro to scene III)
The Crown of India suite, Op. 66
Noel Rawsthorne, organ (Op. 29)
RLPO/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1969 (Nursery Suite, Grania and Diarmid), 1970 (tracks The Light of Life, Caractacus, The Crown of India) Philharmonia Hall, Liverpool

CD 2 [63.23]
Edward ELGAR (1865-1934)
The Black Knight, cantata Op. 25
Spanish Serenade, Op. 21
The Snow, part-song, Op. 26/1
Fly, Singing Bird, part-song, Op. 26/2
Imperial March, Op. 32
Caractacus, Op. 35 Triumphal March
Liverpool Philharmonic Choir
RLPO/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1970 (Imperial March, Caractacus), 1984 (The Black Knight, Spanish Serenade, The Snow, Fly, Singing Bird, Imperial March), Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

CD 3 [64:05]
Edward ELGAR (1865-1934)
The Light of Life 'Lux Christi' oratorio, Op. 29
Margaret Marshall, Helen Watts, Robin Leggate, John Shirley-Quirk
Liverpool Philharmonic Choir
RLPO/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1980 Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

CD 4 [73.30]
Edward ELGAR (1865-1934)
Caractacus, cantata, Op. 35, Scenes 1-4
Paul Glossop, Sheila Armstrong, Robert Tear, Bryan Rayner Cook, Malcolm King, Richard Stuart
Liverpool Philharmonic Choir
RLPO/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1976, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

CD 5 [69.22]
Edward ELGAR (1865-1934)
Caractacus, cantata Op. 35, Scenes 5 & 6
Coronation March, Op. 65
Enigma Variations, Op. 36
Paul Glossop, Sheila Armstrong, Robert Tear, Bryan Rayner Cook, Malcolm King, Richard Stuart (Op. 35)
Liverpool Philharmonic Choir (Op. 35)
RLPO/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1976 (Op. 35), 1970 (Op. 65), Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool; 1977 No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London (Op. 36)

CD 6 [61.03]
Edward ELGAR (1865-1934)
Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 61
Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D major, Op. 39 No. 1
Pomp and Circumstance March No. 4 in G major, Op. 39 No. 4
Hugh Bean, violin (op. 61)
RLPO/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1972 (Op. 61), 1976 (Op. 39) Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

CD 7 [57.30]
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
A Song of Summer
Eventyr (Once Upon a Time)
Dance Rhapsody No. 1
Paris - The Song of a Great City, a nocturne for orchestra
RPO/Sir Charles Groves (track 1)
RLPO/Sir Charles Groves (tracks 2-4)
rec. 1971 (tracks 2-4), Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool; 1971 No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London

CD 8 [76.54]
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Lebenstanz (Life’s Dance)
North Country Sketches
Sea Drift
Cynara
John Noble (Sea Drift), John Shirley-Quirk (Cynara)
Liverpool Philharmonic Choir (Sea Drift)
RPO/Sir Charles Groves (Lebenstanz, North Country Sketches)
RLPO/Sir Charles Groves (Sea Drift, Cynara)
rec. 1974 No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London (Lebenstanz, North Country Sketches); 1973 Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool (Sea Drift); 1968 Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool (Cynara)

CD 9 [75.08]
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Songs of Sunset
An Arabesque
A Mass of Life, part 1
Janet Baker, John Shirley-Quirk (Songs of Sunset)
Liverpool Philharmonic Choir (Songs of Sunset), London Philharmonic Choir (A Mass of Life)
Heather Harper, Helen Watts, Robert Tear, Benjamin Luxon (A Mass of Life)
RLPO/Sir Charles Groves
LPO/Sir Charles Groves (A Mass of Life)
rec. 1968 Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool (Songs of Sunset, An Arabesque); 1971 Kingsway Hall, London (A Mass of Life)

CD 10 [66.06]
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
A Mass of Life, part 2
Heather Harper, Helen Watts, Robert Tear, Benjamin Luxon
London Philharmonic Choir
LPO/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1971 Kingsway Hall, London

CD 11 [61.16]
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Koanga, Opera in three acts, prologue & acts 1, 2
Claudia Lindsey, Jean Allister, Raimund Herincx, Eugene Holmes, Keith Erwen, Simon Estes
John Alldis Choir
London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1973 Kingsway Hall, London

CD 12 [76.32]
Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934)
Koanga, Opera in three acts, acts 3 & Epilogue
Claudia Lindsey, Jean Allister, Raimund Herincx, Eugene Holmes, Keith Erwen, Simon Estes
John Alldis Choir
London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1973 Kingsway Hall, London
The Song of the High Hills (without words)
Miriam Bowen, Peter Bingham
Liverpool Philharmonic Choir
RLPO/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1973 Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

CD 13 [57.17] and CD 14 [48.37]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Hugh the Drover (or Love in the Stocks), opera in two acts
Robert Tear, Sheila Armstrong, Michael Rippon, Robert Lloyd, Helen Watts, Leslie Fyson, Oliver Broome, Sally Burgess, Terence Sharpe, David Johnson,
Ambrosian Opera Chorus
Choristers of St Paul's Cathedral
RPO/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1978, Kingsway Hall, London

CD 15 [60.22]
Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)
The Hymn of Jesus, Op. 37, H140
Short Festival Te Deum, H145
Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda, 2nd Group, Op. 26: H98
Ode to Death, Op. 38, H144
Two Songs without Words, No, 2 Marching Song, Op. 22, H88
Choristers of St. Paul’s Cathedral Choir (Op. 37)
London Symphony Chorus (H145, H144)
London Symphony Chorus, women’s voices (H145, H98)
LPO/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1977 Kingsway Hall, London
Two Songs without Words, No, 2 Marching Song, Op. 22, H88
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
Coastal Command - Dawn Patrol (arranged Muir Mathieson)
RLPO/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1976 Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

CD 16 [52.28]
Havergal BRIAN (1876-1972)
Symphony No. 8 in B flat minor
Symphony No. 9 in A minor
RLPO/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1977, No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London

CD 17 [59.53]
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
The Sea (Suite)
Summer (Tone Poem)
Cherry Ripe
Enter Spring (Rhapsody)
Lament
RLPO/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1975, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

CD 18 [68.24]
Sir Arthur BLISS (1891-1975)
Morning Heroes, choral symphony for orator, chorus and orchestra
Processional
John Westbrook (orator)
Liverpool Philharmonic Choir
RLPO/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1974 (Morning Heroes), 1976 (Processional) Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

CD 19 [72.30]
Sir Arthur BLISS (1891-1975)
A Colour Symphony
Music from the film Things to Come, arranged by Christopher Palmer
RPO/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1976, No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, Op. 34
RLPO/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1977, No. 1 Studio, Abbey Road, London

CD 20 [68.56]
William WALTON (1902-1983)
Spitfire: Prelude and Fugue
Scapino: A Comedy Overture
Crown Imperial (Coronation March 1937)
Orb and Sceptre (Coronation March 1953)
Johannesburg Festival Overture
Capriccio burlesco
rec. 1969, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
Funeral March from Hamlet (arranged Muir Mathieson)
Prelude - Richard III (arranged Muir Mathieson)
A Shakespeare Suite - Richard III (arranged Muir Mathieson)
Noel Rawsthorne (Crown Imperial & Orb and Sceptre)
RLPO/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1983, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

CD 21 [76.42]
William WALTON (1902-1983)
Hamlet and Ophelia: A poem for orchestra
Henry V - Suite (arranged Muir Mathieson)
rec. 1983 Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
Kenneth ALFORD (1881-1845):
On the Quarter-Deck (March)
Henry Walford DAVIES (1869-1941)
March Past of the Royal Air Force
TRADITIONAL - arranged Sir Henry WOOD (1869-1944)
Hornpipe (Fantasia on British Sea Songs)
Thomas ARNE (1710–1778)
The British Grenadiers (arranged Stanford Robinson
Rule, Britannia (from Alfred) (arranged Sir Malcolm Sargent)
Eric COATES (1886-1957)
The Dam Busters (March) from the 1955 film
rec. 1976, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
The Three Bears Phantasy
Cinderella Phantasy
Anne Collins, contralto (Rule, Britannia)
Liverpool Philharmonic Choir (Rule, Britannia)
RLPO/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1970, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

CD 22 [78.36]
Eric COATES (1886-1957)
By the Sleepy Lagoon, Valse-serenade
From Meadow to Mayfair, Suite
Springtime in Angus (Elizabeth of Glamis) from The Three Elizabeths (Suite)
Keith Wood (oboe)
The Dam Busters (March) from the 1955 film
Wood Nymphs (Valsette)
Music Everywhere 'Rediffusion March'
Saxo-Rhapsody
Jack Brymer (saxophone)
Summer Days (Suite) - At the Dance
rec. 1968, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
London (London Everyday) - (Suite)
London Again (Suite)
RLPO/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1970, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

CD 23 [74.07]
Sir Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900)
Symphony in E major 'Irish'
rec. 1968 Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
HMS Pinafore: Overture
Patience Overture
Iolanthe Overture
The Mikado Overture
The Yeomen of the Guard: Overture
The Gondoliers Overture
RLPO/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1972, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

CD 24 [62.34]
Sir Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900)
Overture di Ballo
rec. 1968, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
Malcolm ARNOLD (1921-2006)
English Dances, Set 1, Op. 27
English Dances, Set 2, Op. 33
Symphony No. 2, Op. 40
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1976, Guildhall, Southampton
William WALTON (1902-1983)
Henry V - Suite (arranged Muir Mathieson):
Touch her soft lips and part
Agincourt Song
RLPO/Sir Charles Groves
rec. 1976, Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

 

 




Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb



Donate and get a free CD

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical



Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Vacant
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger