Foulds: Keltic Overture

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COMPOSERS: Foulds
LABELS: Dutton
WORKS: Keltic Overture, Op. 28; Keltic Suite, Op. 29; Sicilian Aubade; Isles of Greece, Op. 48, No. 2; Holiday Sketches, Op. 16; An Arabian Night; Suite fantastique, Op. 72
PERFORMER: BBC Concert Orchestra/Ronald Corp
CATALOGUE NO: CDLX 7252

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The more we learn about John Foulds, the harder it becomes to find any pigeonhole capacious or odd-shaped enough to contain him.

When he wasn’t composing wildly eclectic masterpieces, researching Indian music or seeking out the means to an all-embracing world religion, he was also an impressive composer of light music, finely tailored to English popular taste
both before and after World War I. The ‘Lament’ from the Keltic Suite was a hit in its day, and hearing it here it’s easy to see why. 

The Suite’s style will not come as a surprise to those who know the Three Mantras, Dynamic Triptych or the orchestral version of April England. Foulds’s eclecticism was as inclusive as Mahler’s, though without the irony. When the ‘serious’ Foulds rips into a bracingly popular tune after Messiaen-like harmonies and rhythms of Indian complexity in the Mantras he really means business.

In these pieces we just get the tunes, set amid musical picture postcard scenes: the visionary has the professional good sense to stay hidden. Yet works like the Keltic Overture and Suite fantastique betray no hint of how thoroughly fed up Foulds was of having to write this kind of music so late in his career.

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Ronald Corp manages to treat this music with respect without trying to make it what it isn’t and was never meant to be. The recordings are well up to Dutton’s normal very exacting standards. Stephen Johnson