Bliss, Gordon, Boyce/Lambert, Toye

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bliss,Boyce/Lambert,Gordon,Toye
LABELS: ASV White Line
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Tribute to Madam
WORKS: Checkmate; The Rake’s Progress; The Prospect Before Us; The Haunted Ballroom
PERFORMER: Royal Ballet Sinfonia/Barry Wordsworth
CATALOGUE NO: CD WLS 255
‘Madam’ is Ninette de Valois, founding director of what became the Royal Ballet, who died last March at the age of 102. This tribute is a well-filled double pack containing the complete scores of four ballets choreographed by de Valois in the company’s early, pioneering years. The outstanding work is Arthur Bliss’s chess-inspired Checkmate, recorded for the first time at its full 52-minute length: there is much fine music here which Bliss left out of his five-movement concert suite, including some gripping scenes for the deadly Black Queen. Gavin Gordon’s The Rake’s Progress is pretty feeble sub-Poulenc pastiche, with a remarkably decorous Orgy scene; The Prospect Before Us is a neat adaptation by the company’s musical director Constant Lambert of movements by William Boyce; Geoffrey Toye’s The Haunted Ballroom is notable chiefly for its darkly Ravelian waltz, once familiar as a separate piece. All

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four scores are performed, by the orchestra and conductor of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, with

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spirit and finesse. The close-miked recording gives everything the excessive vividness of an MSG-enhanced Chinese meal: but even that suits the dramatic, colourful Checkmate which for music lovers, rather than nostalgic ballet-goers, is the best reason to buy this set. Anthony Burton