Foulds: Orchestral music, Vol. 2

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LABELS: Dutton
WORKS: Volume 2: Music-Pictures Group VI, Op. 81: Gaelic Melodies; The Florida Spiritual, Op. 71, No.1; Darby and Joan, Op. 42, No. 1: An Old English Idyll; Music-Pictures Group IV, Op. 55: Suite for String Orchestra; Strophes from an Antique Song; Indian Suite; Henry VIII Suite, Op. 87: Music to Shakespeare’s play; Suite Française, Op. 22 etc
PERFORMER: Cynthia Fleming (violin), Katherine Wood (cello), Alun Darbyshire (oboe), Ileana Ruhemann (flute), Michael Pearce (clarinet), Victoria Walpole (cor anglais); BBC Concert Orchestra/Ronald Corp


For John Foulds, composing light music was clearly not mere hackwork. He was a natural melodist (as is evident even in his most adventurous works), and there are times when the imagination goes way beyond what might be expected of a composer of musical postcards. The Florida Spiritual for example contains an extraordinary orchestral evocation of a humming chorus, including trombone glissandos and what sound like pizzicato tremolos. The tune is really rather good too – it feels authentic, and yet it appears to be original Foulds. 

Music-Pictures Group VI, is another of those deliciously tuneful ‘Keltic’ pieces in which sets a scene so deftly that you can’t help wishing Foulds had turned to the cinema – he’d have been a natural. But it would be hard to guess from this collection that Foulds was also one of the most exploratory composers of his generation.


The Indian Suite uses indigenous tunes pleasingly enough, but of the composer who was genuinely fascinated by Indian musical techniques there’s barely a hint. Appealing as so much of this music is – all well performed and excellently recorded – I’d willingly sacrifice the lot for a glimpse of the Symphony of East and West that went missing from the composer’s last years. If anyone could have pulled off that tricky synthesis, it was John Foulds. Stephen Johnson