Rawsthorne: Practical Cats

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Rawsthorne
LABELS: Dutton
ALBUM TITLE: Rawsthorne
WORKS: Practical Cats; Street Corner Overture; Madame Chrysanthème Ballet Suite; Theme, Variations & Finale; Medieval Diptych; Coronation Overture
PERFORMER: Simon Callow (narrator), Jeremy Huw Williams (baritone); Royal Liverpool PO/David Lloyd-Jones
CATALOGUE NO: CDLX 7203

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In 1954, when Andrew Lloyd Webber was still a kitten, Alan Rawsthorne set six poems from TS Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats as an ‘entertainment for speaker and orchestra’ – and very entertaining it is, too. Simon Callow narrates with engaging characterisation, though occasionally he’s too strongly rhythmic at the expense of natural stresses. It sounds as if he’s in a studio on his own trying to keep up with the pre-recorded orchestra, when, despite all the difficulties of balance, it might have been better to have speaker and conductor interacting on the spot. That’s a minor reservation, though, about a most enjoyable programme, including also the Medieval Diptych on contrasting English devotional texts, a lively and graceful suite from the ballet Madame Chrysanthème (based on the story that inspired Puccini’s Madama Butterfly), the beautifully crafted Theme, Variations and Finale, the good-humoured wartime Street Corner Overture, and a surprisingly subdued Coronation Overture. Baritone Jeremy Huw Williams is his usual reliable self in the Diptych, and everything is expertly paced and balanced, crisply played and brightly recorded. Anthony Burton