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Made in Britain Sir William WALTON (1902-1983) Scapino Overture [8:30] George BUTTERWORTH (1885–1916) TwoEnglish Idylls: No. 1 [5:19] No. 2 [4:43] Frederick DELIUS (1862-1934) The Walk to the Paradise Garden [9:16] Sir Arnold BAX (1883-1953) The Happy Forest [10:09] Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) Salut d'amour [3:22] Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1873-1958) English Folk Song Suite [9:09] The Lark Ascending [14:37] Sir Edward GERMAN (1862-1936) Nell Gwyn Overture [7:31]
James Clark (violin)
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/John Wilson
rec. 7-8 Apr 2010, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall AVIE AV2194 [72:39]
This collection passed us by when first issued in 2011. That's a pity as John Wilson, whose reputation has not been dwarfed or limited by his pulse-racing excellence in the world of music for shows and cinema, has good and considered things to say about British music. His more recent forays with the CBSO and BBC Philharmonic at Salford Quays bear out his vitality in British music and in Copland: two discs for Chandos (reviewreview).
An eager, spark-flying Scapino sets the scene. After all that impact and zest we are treated to a brisk outing for Butterworth's Two English Idylls. Wilson does not dawdle in front of the byre although my reference version (Lyrita - Boult) recorded in the 1970s finds the First Idyll marginally quicker at 4:58. In any event these two works are well placed to allow you to muse and catch your breath after the Walton. The Delius classic is superbly paced - amongst the finest. His A song of summer registered strongly at a BBCPO concert not so long ago. .
It is unusual and very welcome to see some well-chosen Bax in such a collection. The Happy Forest might be well known to some because it appeared as a filler on an old RCA LP in the 1960s (LSO/Downes - never reissued) when Bax's reputation was struggling out of the dark lagoon. Wilson keeps things brisk in this hymn to the pagan forest - certainly not a Sunday walk with the family. The woodwind are much in use both in the Pan-wild romps as well as in the sun-drenched secret groves - echoing his own Spring Fire. Bax whose predilection for forest imagery is well enough known - is a master of such mood-painting and of melodies to match. Wilson's CBSO concerts have already ventured into The Garden of Fand (May 2016) and the superb November Woods is to come in Birmingham on 10 May 2017.
Wilson's Elgar Salut d'amour moves along smart-ish but without short-changing the music's sweet afterglow. The same can be said of an alert English Folk Song Suite. A touching Lark Ascending secures pride of place for the RLPO leader James Clark. His quicksilver poetry makes for a very fine, nicely measured and touching Lark. This one has a bit more distance around it than the recent Naxos version made impressive by Jennifer Pike's playing. The German overture is a flighty piece into which Wilson breathes vigour. He cannot entirely mask its creaky old-fashioned moments including that queasy dance at the end. Still he did shake up my prejudices about this piece and his encouragement to the RLPO's woodwind is responded to in a way that is memorably attractive.
The helpful liner-essay is by Andrew Achenbach, who is well versed in the field of English music.
This is a nicely filled disc with some freshness about the works chosen. It stands as enthusiastic and communicative testimony to John Wilson's gifts as an English music practitioner. He doesn't do dull.