Foulds: Three Mantras from Avatara; Lyra celtica; Apotheosis (Elegy); Mirage

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

LABELS: Warner
WORKS: Three Mantras from Avatara; Lyra celtica; Apotheosis (Elegy); Mirage
PERFORMER: Susan Bickley (mezzo-soprano), Daniel Hope (violin); City of Birmingham Youth Chorus, CBSO/Sakari Oramo
CATALOGUE NO: 2564-61525-2
If any one work shows why the English composer John Foulds deserves rescuing from the oblivion he was cast into for most of the 20th century it is the astonishing Three Mantras. It isn’t just that the music is extraordinarily forward-looking – especially when it comes to rhythm (there are times when one is reminded of Messiaen). It is also vibrant, brilliant, at times exploding with exuberance. Imagine something between the wilder moments of The Planets and Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy and you might begin to get the picture – though that hardly does justice to Foulds’s sheer originality. That’s also true of the much more impressionistic Lyra celtica – a ‘concerto for voice and orchestra’ in which folk influence leads to the use of microtonal scales, non-tonal harmonies and captivating free-floating melodies, far removed from the nostalgic ‘Celtic Twilight’ lyricism of some of Foulds’s English contemporaries. Apotheosis (Elegy) and Mirage show the younger Foulds still in the shadow of Brahms, Wagner and Richard Strauss, yet still capable of breathtaking surprises alongside the more conventional (but very appealing) melodic writing. The performances are splendid. Sakari Oramo clearly believes in this music, and has just as clearly communicated his passionate conviction to the excellent soloists Susan Bickley and Daniel Hope, and to his orchestra. Fine recordings, too. An enthusiastic recommendation. Stephen Johnson