Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Arthur Butterworth, Ruth Gipps, Douglas Bostock|
Arthur Butterworth: Symphony No. 1; Ruth Gipps: Symphony No. 2
Cheltenham Symphonist - Hurrah!
Thomas F. Bertonneau | Oswego, NY United States | 04/09/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Arthur Butterworth (born 1923) is not a household name - even aficionados of British music might be forgiven for confusing him with George Butterworth (1890 - 1916), the composer of the orchestral rhapsody "A Shropshire Lad," after A. E. Houseman's lyric cycle. Arthur appears not to be related to George. He belongs to a hitherto "lost generation" of British composers filed away for many years under the dismissive category of "Cheltenham Symphonist." What does this odd-sounding coinage mean? In an effort to bolster British culture just after World War Two, the Labor government instituted a number of subsidized festivals of arts and culture. One of them, a series of concerts of newly written symphonic and concerted works, took place annually starting in 1945 at a purpose-built pavilion and grounds in Cheltenham. One of the ideas of the Cheltenham Festival was that the works chosen for the program should appeal to a broad audience - this corresponded - in its benign, redistributive way - to the "socialist-realist" doctrine of Communist Eastern Europe, which decreed that composers (artists generally) should produce works "understandable" by "the people," whoever they might be. The British version of this policy resulted in works that were, indeed, conservative in temper, accessible, enjoyable - none of which is a bad thing. Nevertheless, given the strident ascendancy of avant-garde ideas at the time ("Schoenberg is dead," said George Boulez - "Long live Webern!"), the very "listener friendly" quality of Cheltenham Festival fare drew the ire of the "progressive element" among composers and critics. In the propaganda war inside the arts in Britain, the term "Cheltenham Symphonist" acquired the value of a put-down, the sophisticate trumping his Neanderthal would-be competitor with a damning label implying that the victim belonged inalterably to a bypassed fashion that had no contemporary relevance. It is useful to consider some of the works performed for the first time in the context of the Festival: they include symphonies by William Alwynn, John McCabe, Peter Racine Fricker, John Veale, George Lloyd, not to mention scores by Benjamin Britten, Michael Tippett, and Peter Maxwell Davies. The culture-wars of fifty years ago fortunately no longer mean much - not only that: the real victors seem to be those who suffered rhetorical ignominy but who latterly have found an audience to which their detractors ironically cannot lay claim. Arthur Butterworth (still living - an "actual" composer, as the French would say) may wear the badge proudly of "Cheltenham Symphonist." His First Symphony had its premiere there in 1957, the composer having written it during a period of almost ten years beginning just after World War Two. As did many British composers of the mid-twentieth century (Vaughan Williams, Walton, Bax, Moeran), Butterworth took a few cues from Jean Sibelius. The opening gestures of the First Symphony's Allegro Molto Moderato do indeed suggest the archetypal Finnish composer, particularly the Sibelius of the Sixth Symphony. These arguably "Nordic" moments vie in the Allegro with music more readily identifiable as British and mid-century: the agitated crescendos are not so far from Walton or Bax in an angry mood. The Second Movement (Lento Molto) clocks in longest at just over thirteen minutes. Here, Butterworth's strong feeling for nature - something that he shares with Sibelius (and with Bax and Moeran) - comes out. The notes tell how the Lento, rapt and quiet, grew out of the profound impression made on the composer by two separate encounters with nature in her unmediated mood: one was a walk in solitude in the Rothiemurchus Forest in the Scottish Highlands; the other was a stroll, this time in company, along the seashore near Aberdeen at night. The Scherzo which follows is lighthearted, a real resting-point in the progression of contending moods, and lightly scored. Butterworth says that he wrote the bustling Finale (Vivacissimo e Furioso) in imitation, as it were, of a string quartet finale by Leonard Salzedo, and to represent, as far as that were possible, a high-speed railway journey from London to Glasgow with the train pulled behind a muscular "Duchess" class steam locomotive. It works. The wild, truly whooping, horn-calls are especially effective. Some entries of Boult-student Douglas Bostock's "British Symphonic Collection" on the Classico label have left the sense that his Munich orchestra does not quite come to grips with the insular Celtic and Anglo-Saxon idiom. Not so in this case, where the music seems "in their blood." The second feature on the disc is Symphony No. 2 (1945) in one movement by Ruth Gipps (1921 - 1999). A slighter work than Butterworth's forty-minute epic, this nevertheless represents a considerable effort, also in a decidedly Romantic vein. I would sum up the programmatic theme as "anxiety and relief at the end of war." There are soldier-marches that come to the fore and then disappear into the distance; the final section, with its major-key open chords colored enthusiastically by the horns is a moment of unabashed optimism. While Butterworth's Symphony is the more significant work, Gipps' is appreciable. Both are worth getting to know. In the age of the CD, our picture of musical activity in the decades after World War Two continues to grow. Recommended."
Two neglected English symphonies
Rodney Gavin Bullock | Winchester, Hampshire Angleterre | 01/06/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Arthur Butterworth was born in Manchester in the north of England and, at the time of writing, has just celebrated his 80th birthday. His works are not often heard though most of his symphonies (five in all, the last finished in 2003) have been broadcast by the BBC, nearly always by the fine, Manchester-based BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. The neglect can be put down to his 'conservative' style which is broadly tonal. His music is characterised by a strong sense of place and the broad style has some affinities with Sibelius and the symphonies in particular have a Nordic feel about them. His slow movements tend to be elegiac and lyrical and overall, the music has a strong personality.The First Symphony (1957) begins with an allegro molto moderato which recalls Tapiola at times. The music is dramatic with a fairly high level of dissonance. The slow movement has a dark hued feel and the melodic contours are very characteristic of the composer. About half way through, there is some magical writing, including the Tapiola-like rocking string figures and frequent use of pedals deep in the bass, giving the impression of something subterranean. The third movement is based on a quirky little tune. The finale follows, without a break, with startling ferocity. Be prepared! Loud brass outbursts are allied to percussion and swirling strings to bring visions of a storm. The storm reaches its height with whooping trombones and virtuoso orchestral writing all round. There is a short lull and Butterworth finishes it with all he has got. Very exciting.Ruth Gipps was born in a south coast seaside resort and studied under Vaughan Williams. She was very much a practicing musician, playing the oboe in orchestras and in chamber ensembles. Apart from composition, she also taught. She was an outspoken opponent of Schoenberg's serialism, which was quite a brave thing to do as self-confessed tonal composers were ostracised, in a very British way (nothing was ever said).Gipps Second Symphony is a lovely work. It is full of tunes and is wonderfully orchestrated. It is in one movement but the CD has 15 index tracks corresponding with the different sections as defined by tempo. This music could not be more accessible and makes a nice conclusion to the disc.This is one of the most enterprising of Classico's British symphonic series and I hate to put in a critical note. However, the playing by the Münchner Symphoniker in the Butterworth is not quite up to scratch. It is plainly a difficult score and sometimes the strain shows. However, do not let this put you off. The Gipps is just fine. The recording is good and the insert notes excellent, with some good photos."
Worth getting to know.
P. Edwin | Fukushima, Japan | 09/04/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Butterworth is a somewhat disjointed symphony, and not played particularly well on this disc, but repeated listening will reveal more to enjoy. The Gipps, on the other hand, is a delightful work with immediate appeal, full of catchy tunes, and expresses subdued joy after a major distaster, in this instance WW2. The playing here is more assured. A disc worth acquiring then, for those interested in neglected, conservative, middle 20th ceentury British music. though neither of these symphonies approach the epic proportions found in the symphony of E.J. Moeran, for example, or any of the symphonies of Arnold Bax, to name just two other relatively neglected composers of an earlier and similar period. [Moeran's symphony dates from 1937].
An excellent booklet comes with this disc."