Another winner from Lyrita
Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 03/05/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"People that enjoy pastoral British 20th century music will like this CD from Lyrita, a remake of a successful LP fare from the 1970s featuring music of George Butterworth (1885-1916), Peter Warlock (1894-1930, actually named Philip Heseltine), Patrick Hadley (1899-1930) and Herbert Howells (1892-1983). Howells, the only long-lived one of the bunch, is probably the best known of the group and Butterworth's "A Shropshire Lad" is likely the most well-known tune on the recording, having been championed by Stokowski as well as British conductors.
The 20th century British romantic tradition often used folk song as the basis for composition but "A Shropshire Lad" is not derived from that source. Buttworth first was going to call it "The Cherry Tree" but the score has nothing to do with either a tree or a lad -- it's just a nice British rhapsody that goes on for almost 10 minutes in very rewarding turns. Butterworth's "English Idylls" are more of the same and they do come from folk tunes.
Perhaps most interesting as you listen through the concert are the inventive and more intimately scored pieces by Howells, a personal acquaintance of Ralph Vaughan Williams whose music shares familiarity. "Merry Eye", for viola and orchestra, is a lively nine minutes while "Prcession" and "Elegy", which is scored for viola, string quartet and string orchestra, present a more three dimensional side of English romanticism. Listeners familiar with Vaughan Williams's "Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis" will note a striking similarity between it and "Elegy". They were composed at almost the same time -- "Elegy" in 1916, VW's masterpiece composed 1910 and revised nine years later.
Adrian Boult is, of course, the right man for this kind of music and does everything about as well as anyone could. The London Philharmonic and New Philharmonia orchestras are heard in their best light for Lyrita, which was known for producing audiophile LPs in the 1970s. The transfer of this beauty does that reputation justice. Anyone that likes the pastoral music of Vaughan Williams, Holst or any other Englishman would certainly take a shine to this."
Desert island British classics from Lyrita
jsa | San Diego, CA United States | 03/23/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For those who haven't explored 20th century English music, I cannot think of a better introduction than this outstanding disc. It opens with crushingly beautiful treatments of four short works by George Butterworth: two Idylls, The Banks of Green Willow & A Shropshire Lad, & continues with a variety of substantial works by Warlock, Hadley & Howells which fit together very nicely.
Who could listen to The Banks of Green Willows & A Shropshire Lad & not be transported to another dimension of pure enchantment? The interesting liner notes point out that Adrian Boult knew Butterworth & attended the Leeds premiere of A Shropshire Lad, under the baton of Nikisch, in 1913. With that kind of connection it's no wonder that Boult turns in such an inspired performance. It was a great tragedy that George Butterworth, one of the most promising of Britain's 20th century composers, did not live to thirty, a victim of the Great War.
I'm very familiar with most of the music on this outstanding recording, having purchased it over thirty years ago when it was issued on the Musical Heritage Society & HNH labels. At the time, MHS was a courageous pioneer in licensing Lyrita's recordings of British composers, most of whom were largely unknown to Americans. The list included Bax, Moeran, Butterworth, Rubbra, Bridge, Rawsthorne, Ireland, Bliss and so on. Although Adrian Boult's recordings of Vaughan Williams had made some headway here, & certainly Britten & Walton were very well-known, most classical enthusiasts were still most familiar with The Planets when it came to modern British music.
When the LP era faded away, the great Lyrita recordings, most of which were & still are definitive, disappeared. Now, thanks apparently to new ownership, Lyrita is back & their classic catalog of recordings is gradually being reissued on compact disc.
Finally, it was good to see this disc get a top recommendation from Classics Today, which wrote "Adrian Boult lives up to his reputation as a master of British music in these idiomatic, authoritative, and engaging performances--qualities that sustain throughout the various recording sessions with both the London Philharmonic and New Philharmonia orchestras. Lyrita's 1970s analog productions reproduce with warmth and fullness in these remasterings. An excellent disc, with strong appeal for anglophiles and neophytes alike."
Very highly recommended!