Lambert: Romeo and Juliet; Pomona; The Bird Actors

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COMPOSERS: Lambert
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Romeo and Juliet; Pomona; The Bird Actors
PERFORMER: State Orchestra of Victoria/John Lanchbery
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9865
Although the 50th anniversary of Constant Lambert’s death this year is likely to spur on the reassessment of the composer’s small but distinctive output, there has been a steady flow of revitalising recordings for some years, principally from Hyperion. Chandos now joins the fray with the third recording of the ballet Pomona in as many years. This quirky, Romantic little score, a mythological pastoral written to an Argentinian commission when Lambert was still only 20, encapsulates perfectly his Les Six-like charm and Stravinskian neo-classicism.

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The even earlier Romeo and Juliet is a short divertissement-style ballet set around a rehearsal of Shakespeare’s play in which the dancers in the roles of the lovers do themselves fall for each other at first sight and end up eloping by aeroplane. Commissioned by Diaghilev and designed by Max Ernst and Joan Miró (no less, and much to Lambert’s displeasure), as a ballet it has not unnaturally since been eclipsed by Prokofiev’s score. But this earlier version has delights of its own, and its wit and good humour are caught well by Lanchbery and his Melbourne forces. The English Northern Philharmonia and David Lloyd-Jones on Hyperion are snappier in Pomona’s buoyant rhythms, but this new release has plenty going for it. Matthew Rye