Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Delius, Grainger, Dyson, Holst, Ireland, Davies & Scott

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Davies & Scott,Delius,Dyson,Elgar,Grainger,Holst,Ireland,Vaughan Williams
LABELS: Philips
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: English Idyll
WORKS: Music by Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Delius, Grainger, Dyson, Holst, Ireland, Davies & Scott
PERFORMER: Julian Lloyd Webber (cello)Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Neville Marriner
CATALOGUE NO: 442 530-2 DDD
British Music Year hasn’t yet begun and I’m beginning to wonder how much languid lyricism we will be forced to stomach. Julian Lloyd Webber has made the promulgation of this repertoire something of a mission. Good things have come out of his work, notably Stanford’s powerful sonata. However, the theme ‘English Idyll’ was almost bound to result in too much of a good thing. Lloyd Webber plays beautifully throughout, but even he cannot save some of this music from cloying sentiment.

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At the high-quality end of the scale are Elgar’s Romance in D minor (originally for bassoon) and the haunting faux-orientalism of Delius’s Two Pieces. Vaughan Williams’s Tuba Concerto is a particular favourite, but how much more touching on the shy tuba with its penetrating, sub-aqua tone.

The programme descends steeply into the soup of Percy Grainger’s Youthful Rapture and the jaunty Eric Coatesian Fantasy by George Dyson, both of which would make excellent continuity music for a Merchant Ivory film. Walford Davies’s Solemn Melody has all the complacent piety of a thousand Sunday mornings in middle England while John Ireland’s Holy Boy, written in 1941, years after he had been teaching the young Britten, speaks volumes for his pupil’s disenchantment with his native contemporaries.

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Cyril Scott is represented by his dazzling Pastoral and Reel. Holst’s Invocation for cello and orchestra is the most substantial piece on the disc but seems superficial and pompous in comparison with, for example, Frank Bridge’s deeply felt Oration (1930), for the same forces. The Oration bears the scars of the First World War and the idyll is seen in perspective. In these pieces, written before, during and after the war, it might never have happened. Man cannot take too much reality, but can we have a new theme from Mr Lloyd Webber please? Helen Wallace