WORKS: Voices of the Prophets; English Suite for String Orchestra; Relinquishment; Nocturne; Lyric Interlude
PERFORMER: Piers Lane (piano); Clio Gould (violin), Sophia Rahman (piano); Philip Langridge (tenor), Lionel Friend (piano)Northern CO/Nicholas Ward
CATALOGUE NO: RR 008 DDD
The unlikely marriage of political radicalism and musical conservatism is one of the more curious characteristics of 20th-century British music. It’s nowhere better demonstrated than in the career of Alan Bush, born in 1900, who grew up through the most tumultuous decades of political and musical upheaval; he was imprinted as a life-long Marxist, but musically remained part of the mainstream, keen to direct his music towards the widest possible audience. The political dimension determined the subject matter of his four operas (well established in the repertory in the former Eastern bloc, yet barely known in Britain) but left his instrumental music ideologically rootless and stylistically becalmed.
Its beautiful craftsmanship deserves to be better represented on disc, and for that reason Redcliffe’s historically rather haphazard collection should be welcomed. The recording quality varies wildly – the best work, the Tippett-like song cycle Voices of the Prophets (1953), beautifully sung by Philip Langridge in a 1986 Queen Elizabeth Hall concert, is the least impressive. But the good-mannered pastoralism of the piano pieces and the string orchestra English Suite, as well as the more acerbic quality of the Lyric Interlude, are nicely conveyed. Andrew Clements