Elgar, Maccunn, Austin & Bliss

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Austin & Bliss,Elgar,Maccunn
LABELS: Classico
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Heritage & Legacy 2
WORKS: Works by Elgar, MacCunn, Austin & Bliss
PERFORMER: Royal Liverpool PO/Douglas Bostock
After seven decades in hiding in the Grainger Museum in Melbourne the manuscript of Frederic Austin’s Symphony came to light three years ago. While it’s not a great work, or even a consistent one, at its best – as in the coda of the slow movement – it reveals a talented composer with a rich and highly perfumed imagination. Not surprisingly it seems to have made quite an impression on Arnold Bax, who played through the score at the piano before the first performance in 1913. But although the title of this collection groups Austin with Elgar, it reminded me far more of some of Elgar’s riper continental contemporaries. In fact you’d probably be hard pressed to guess that it was English at all. Bliss’s Pyanepsion, too (another version of the finale of the Colour Symphony, but intended to stand on its own), has a less pronounced national voice than some of his later work. If the end result of this CD is to make you admire Elgar all the more, the journey is still worth making – especially in the company of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Douglas Bostock, who give the impression of enjoying every note of it. Bostock’s In the South doesn’t have the languid Mediterranean magic Mark Elder finds in its more tranquil pages (see last month), but he does bring a very welcome zest and muscularity. Good clear recordings. Stephen Johnson