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REVIEW Plain text for smartphones & printers


Classical Music for British Transport Films
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
Perpetuum Mobile
, Op.257, used for Let’s go to Birmingham (1962) [2:57]
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Malcolm Sargent (rec. 1962 ADD/mono)
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
The Wasps
Overture, used for Fully Fitted Freight (1957) [10:05]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult (rec. 1944 ADD/mono)
George Frideric HANDEL (1658-1759)
: Every Valley; The People that walked; Overture; Pastoral Symphony; Their Sound is gone out; All we like Sheep, used for Every Valley (1957) [18:31]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult (1954 ADD/mono)
A London Symphony: Lento and Scherzo, used for The Scene from Melbury House (1972) [18:11]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Adrian Boult (rec. 1952 ADD/mono)
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Overture, used for A City for all Seasons (1969) [13:10]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Eduard van Beinum (rec. 1949 ADD/mono)
Edward WILLIAMS (1920-2013)
Open House
for the film of the same name from 1951 [7:10]
Dennis Brain Ensemble (rec. 1951)
BEULAH 1PDR33 [74:06]

With apologies for repeating myself, I mentioned this release in some detail in my recent review of another Beulah recording, The Art of Vaughan Williams II, with which it shares the music from The Wasps and A London Symphony: the complete suite from the former and the complete symphony, in these same performances, are included there (2PD39).

The recordings vary in age from van Beinum’s Cockaigne, already rather dated when I bought the reissue on Ace of Clubs but made to sound quite tolerable here, to Barbirolli’s Strauss, a stereo recording reproduced in mono here, as on the film soundtrack and sounding none the worse.

This is a novel peg on which to hang an interesting collection of music, as well as reflecting the interests of Beulah’s owner in various kinds of transport. Only the overlap with some of the music on 2PD39 presents a problem. Forget about the overlap and enjoy this above all for Beinum’s Cockaigne. Like Christopher Howell who reviewed it as part of the defunct IMG Great Conductors 2-CD set, the Ace of Clubs reissue was one of my two excellent introductions to this work and to the Cello Concerto – the other was from George Weldon on a more modern stereo World Record Club LP – and, like CH, I still think it a very fine interpretation. It’s also available on a 4-CD Beulah CD set Visions of Elgar (1PD15).

You won’t go far wrong with Sir Malcom Sargent's  Strauss and, though Sir Adrian Boult’s Messiah is no longer fashionable, it’s interesting to hear these excerpts. I originally wrongly listed the soloists of the 1962 Boult recording: the 1954 singers are in fact George Maran in Every Valley and the great Owen Brannigan in All we like sheep.

If you think period-instrument performances downsize the Pastoral Symphony and All we like sheep, you’ll find Boult more akin to the large-scale performance which famously reduced Haydn to tears on his visit to London.  He did, however, use a cleaner edition than was usual at the time, avoiding the excesses of Sir Malcolm Sargent’s forays with the Huddersfield Choral Society, still available from Classics for Pleasure if you are so inclined, or Sir Thomas Beecham’s with all but the kitchen sink thrown in, thankfully defunct.

Boult’s mono recording of A London Symphony is still my benchmark, even in preference to his stereo remake for EMI. My only reservation about the two movements included here in a very acceptable transfer is that they will tempt you to hear the whole work, either on Beulah’s The Art of Vaughan Williams II or on Australian Decca Eloquence.

The final short work by Edward Williams makes me wonder why we have not heard more of him – a project for Toccata or Dutton, perhaps?

Meanwhile fans of various forms of transport and of classic performances should enjoy this release.

Brian Wilson

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