WORKS: Pastoral ‘Lie strewn the white flocks’; A Knot of Riddles; Music for Strings
PERFORMER: Sybil Michelow (mezzo-soprano), Norman Knight (flute), John Shirley-Quirk (baritone); Bruckner-Mahler Choir of London, London CO/Wyn Morris, LPO/Adrian Boult
CATALOGUE NO: CDM 5 67117 2 Reissue (1970, 1974)
Holidaying with much pleasure in Sicily in the Twenties inspired Bliss to write his choral work Pastoral. The shepherds have a pretty jolly time of things and Pan is a distinctly unthreatening god. This is no neglected masterpiece but ambles along amiably enough with Wyn Morris’s choir vigorous though occasionally a touch ragged and heavy on the sibilance.
A Knot of Riddles is much more interesting in terms of musical invention and instrumental texture. John Shirley-Quirk and the 11 players seem to enjoy their little teasers and find wit as well as asperity in this 1963 score.
Music for Strings was premiered by the Vienna Philharmonic at the 1935 Salzburg Festival. I wonder if they have played it since? If they haven’t the loss would be theirs as it boasts music of vigour and passion with some attractive march elements and a scurrying finale.
The Patrick Hadley disc is short measure at only 42 minutes, but I would urge listeners to explore this gorgeous music. The Hills is imbued with the spirit of folk music and, though the influences of RVW, Delius and Finzi especially, are all there it has something fresh, original and enchanting to say. The chorus of wedding-guests, for example, resplendent with brass and percussion paeans is unmissable! David Wilkins