WORKS: Ballade; Symphonic Variations on an African Air; Two English Idylls; A Shropshire Lad; The Banks of Green Willow; The Land of the Mountain and the Flood
PERFORMER: RLPO/Grant Llewellyn
CATALOGUE NO: 436 401-2 DDD
These albums make an ideal summer evening’s pastoral reverie. Both contain beautifully shaped and evocative performances caught in warm and spacious recordings.
One of the greatest tragedies for British music must have been the early death, during the Great War, of George Butterworth. His hauntingly beautiful music, largely based on folk tunes, shows great flair for melody and atmosphere; it really breathes the English landscape. Who knows what he might have achieved? Llewellyn gives glowing accounts of all his works here, equalling the ravishing Marriner 1970s Decca recording.
Coleridge-Taylor wrote his Symphonic Variations on an African Air in 1904 two years after Delius’s Appalachia. Both works were influenced by Negro spirituals and life in the Deep South of the United States. Although the Variations do not have the emotional bite of Appalachia, they are well crafted and pleasing enough. The MacCunn work is great fun — colourful and exciting.
Frank Bridge’s There is a willow grows aslant a brook, on the Nimbus disc, refers to the drowning of Hamlet’s Ophelia. It is most imaginative music, demonstrating the composer’s later, more avant-garde style. William Boughton excels in evoking its shadows and sense of waterlogged doom. The other Bridge works are mostly in lighter vein and are all appealing, especially Cherry Rife and Rosemary, both quite beguiling.
Parry’s English Suite is attractive and freshly inventive. Aside from the grave but stately Saraband, most of the movements have a wistful charm.
Finzi’s Eclogue combines Bachian textures with a tender, idyllic treatment to paint a golden, nostalgic landscape. The ratings below are for both discs. Ian Lace