COMPOSERS: Percy Grainger
ALBUM TITLE: Percy Grainger: Works for Large Chorus & Orchestra
WORKS: Works for Large Chorus & Orchestra: King Soloman’s Espousals; Tribute to Foster; Marching Song of Democracy; The Wrath of Odin; etc
PERFORMER: Sydney Chamber Choir; Melbourne Symphony orchestra/Sir Andrew Davis
CATALOGUE NO: CHSA5121
Nineteen Chandos CDs, four of them devoted to works for chorus and orchestra, were not enough to contain Grainger’s uneven but always personal genius. Among the omissions were Tribute to Foster. Grainger tells us he had first heard its inspiration, Camptown Races, ‘when I was a tot on me mammy’s knee’. This delicious extravaganza, with that central reminiscence haloed by wineglasses and bowed metal marimbas, now reaches us in the expert hands of Sir Andrew Davis, conducting Grainger’s compatriots. There are three other ballad rarities of almost equal interest – The Lads of Wamphray, The Bride’s Tragedy and The Wraith of Odin – and several noble failures, including the early King Solomon’s Espousals, sounding like early Elgar on autopilot, and the Marching Song for Democracy.
Lamentably, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Chorus makes mush of the texts and the musical shape. Things look up when the Sydney Chamber Choir joins them; the professional ballast should have been applied throughout. The orchestra isn’t great, either. A pity: I wanted to like this CD more. At least it has its moments, hence three rather than two stars.