WORKS: Music by Butterworth, Moeran, Bridge, Bax
PERFORMER: Ann Murray (mezzo-soprano); ECO/Jeffrey Tate
CATALOGUE NO: CDM 7 64200 2 DDD
George Butterworth’s tragic death in the First World War left us with an orchestral legacy of just four short pieces. They are unique in their magical poetry and individual sensibility, their idyllic charm and pastoral serenity subtly enriched by the shadows that drift across Butterworth’s emotional landscape. The resulting emotional ambivalence continues to fascinate, as Tate’s devoted and sensitive interpretations of the three idylls testify. In luminous and steadily paced performances with the ECO he remains aware of the darker undercurrents that sometimes stain the surface of the music.
If the very deliberateness of his approach prevents the loveliness from being enhanced by those tiny, urgent contrasts which yield true magic, he still touches the heart. One feels no such reservations about his masterly reading of Frank Bridge’s There is a Willow. This flawless little masterpiece plunges with post-war intensity into the dark world of which Butterworth had become gently aware, and it receives playing of a haunted stillness. So too does EJ Moeran’s Lonely Waters, which occupies similar territory, while Whythorne’s Shadow, a charmingly Warlockian essay combining neo-Elizabethan and post-Delian styles, is sweetly characterised.
The Bax pieces fare beautifully too: engaging music, this, showing the composer’s early style at its freshest. Anthony Payne