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John Foulds: Dynamic Triptych; Music-Pictures III
John Foulds, Sakari Oramo, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
John Foulds: Dynamic Triptych; Music-Pictures III
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (10) - Disc #1


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CD Details

All Artists: John Foulds, Sakari Oramo, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Peter Donohoe
Title: John Foulds: Dynamic Triptych; Music-Pictures III
Members Wishing: 1
Total Copies: 0
Label: Warner Classics
Original Release Date: 1/1/2006
Re-Release Date: 5/23/2006
Genre: Classical
Styles: Forms & Genres, Concertos, Symphonies
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 825646299928

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CD Reviews

John Foulds: Ahead of his time (and a bit of a nutjob...)
svf | 05/25/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Sadly, the composer John Foulds (1880-1939) is mainly remembered -- when he is remembered at all -- for his contributions to that regrettable little genre known as "British Light Music."

Who would have guessed that in addition to crowd-pleasing, pastoral ditties, Foulds also wrote some remarkably progressive, innovative, and frankly ass-kicking stuff. Thankfully, Sakari Oramo and his City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra have taken up the music of John Foulds as a cause of sorts recently, and their previous CD unearthing this neglected composer's revelatory Three Mantras was clearly more than just a flash in the pan.

Their new John Foulds recording features a piano concerto titled Dynamic Triptych, and if you heard this piece during a "blindfold test," you might think you were listening to the best damn thing the overperformed, overcelebrated (and arguably overrated) neo-romanto-post-minimalist composer John Adams ever wrote.

You would then be shocked to learn that this piece was actually written about 75 years ago by this "no-name" British composer who was way ahead of his time in his explorations of Asian music, microtones, and mysticism. Foulds was also a bit of a nutjob who believed he possessed psychic powers and claimed that his music was often dictated to him by spirits. Well, whatever he was doing, it worked.

Triptych is action-packed, varied, arresting, and yes, "dynamic." The first movement brims with dazzling, shimmering pianistic and orchestral pyrotechnics reminiscent of Scriabin, Prokofiev, Poulenc and perhaps even Cecil Taylor with surging, goosebump-inducing climaxes and swirling modal scales. The mysterious second movement is meditative yet restless, and includes some strange and startling sliding string glissandi, while the final movement is propulsive, rhythmic, and almost jazzy, sounding like a wild hybrid of Bartok and Gershwin at times. It's astonishing to me that this exciting and entirely appealing work has languished unrecorded and unperformed for so many decades. Cheers to Sakari Oramo (and the formidable pianist Peter Donohoe) for resurrecting it... and on a widely distributed "major label" release, no less!

Needless to say, Dynamic Triptych is a tough act to follow, and while the other works on this CD don't match its sheer breadth and audacious originality, there are still some other interesting things to discover.

Music-Pictures, Group III, recorded here for the first time, predates Triptych and is Foulds's attempt to represent four specific paintings musically. Foulds's Pictures aren't nearly as evocative and colorful as Mussorgsky's, but this series of short tone poems is charming and enjoyable enough regardless. The Song of Ram Dass and Keltic Lament are also rather soundtracky and less cerebral miniatures, but both are entirely pleasant examples of Foulds's "light music" alter-ego.

April -- England (Impressions of Time and Place No. 1) starts off in a similar vein, but then evolves into an increasingly complex and brilliantly orchestrated series of variations, at times dense with counterpoint and peppered with spiky Stravinskian neo-Classical harmonies. This is a breathtaking symphonic showpiece that would be the perfect concert overture... if only orchestras would play it.

As if all of that weren't enough, Warner Classics has recently gotten on the "enhanced content" bandwagon, and if you pop this CD in your computer you'll have access to some rather nifty extra goodies such as downloadable PDFs of the original scores (so you can play along at home) and an audio download of a movement from Foulds's Indian Suite (I don't understand why they didn't just include this track on the actual CD, but whatever...)

John Foulds was obviously a truly unique musical visionary of the early 20th century, and it's a minor miracle that his music is finally reaching a wider audience. Hear him and be thankful."
Colorful and Intriguing Music
D. A Wend | Buffalo Grove, IL USA | 08/08/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"John Foulds' music came as a complete surprise. I had read an excellent review of this disc and heard a little of the music over the radio which led me to buy the CD. John Folds (1880-1939) was a remarkable man of wide interests who traveled widely, painted landscapes in watercolor, wrote novels and explored the music of many diverse cultures that came to be reflected in his own music.

This disc is actually the second recorded by the City of Birmingham Orchestra. The first selection is a piano concerto by in the hands of John Foulds it becomes Dynamic Triptych. The music was intended to be a single movement work but it quickly became something much larger. The movements go under the names: Dynamic Mode, Dynamic Timbre and Dynamic Rhythm. The first movement is dynamic indeed, fiery was a word used in the notes. It is a very energetic movement that one connects to immediately for the sheer brilliance of the music. Dynamic Timbre is a slow movement that aims at creating instrumental colors and Dynamic Rhythm takes us back to the energy of the first movement and is based on a 2/4 rhythm that Folds builds on. April - England began as a piano piece written on April 21, 1926, the Vernal Equinox. In 1932, Foulds orchestrated and expanded the music into a delightfully bucolic work written with a marvelous palette of colors. Music Pictures III was performed in 1912 and was written to reflect Foulds' musical response to several paintings. The first movement is titled Ancient of Days and is based on a picture by William Blake depicting God as an architect. The second movement is a depicting of a dancing Columbine from a painting by Alfred Brunet, a charming dance sequence. The third and final picture is Old Greek Legend, which was based on two pictures dealing with historical subjects. More important, the last movement was an experiment in the Greek modes of music writing, following in the footsteps of Ralph Vaughan Williams - the boisterous music brings the suite to a rousing close. The Song of Ram Dass, composed in 1 is a beautiful miniature, dreamy like an Oriental night.

This disc is a must for anyone loving colorfully written orchestral music. The music is perfectly played by the City of Birmingham Orchestra and Peter Donohoe shines in the Triptych. I was immediately attracted to John Foulds music and I think he will appeal to many listeners.