Premieres And Encores - Rawsthorne, Morgan, Warlock
Pierson's discursive Macbeth tone poem has no specifically Scottish accent although there is the occasional bagpipe skirl. A memorable piece, it has lashings of bel canto and an overall idiom that relates it to Beethoven (symphonies 4 and 8), Ries and Weber. It is no surprise to read that Pierson spent much of his life in Germany. Like Holbrooke and d’Albert he even changed his name to make it more Teutonic. I'd like to hear more Pierson. In this era of recorded revivals there is surely no reason, apart from performing materials issues, why we should not also hear his Hamlet and the overtures As You Like It and Romeo and Juliet.
Handley's reading of the Alan Rawsthorne's Fantasy Overture: Cortèges shows a composer of broader and more varied palette than we might have presumed from the Symphonic Studies and Symphony No.1. This work is about processions of various sorts from grand and sombre to carnival cavalcades. While there are plenty of Rawsthorne hallmarks much of the music is surprisingly varied and delightful. There is also an element familiar from the macabre King Pest mood of Rawsthorne's friend Constant Lambert. In length it is closer to a tone poem than the typical concert overture. A bristlingly inventive score it holds a few surprises for people like me who think they know their Rawsthorne. The piece ends with a quiet tarantella impudence before the street revellers curl up to sleep.
David Morgan was a pupil of Alan Bush and Leighton Lucas at the RAM. He was accorded the honour of an LP from Lyrita coupling his Violin Concerto and the present piece in 1974. Lyrita must have plans for a different coupling for the Violin Concerto which was premiered in Prague in 1967. I see there is also an as yet unrecorded Sinfonia da Requiem which gives "a personal, not a political reaction to the events of August 1968". Its mood is seemingly reflected in the first movement of Contrasts. His Spring Carnival Overture (not on disc) is apparently akin to the music of the second movement. Contrasts is in two movements and is dedicated to the memory of Shostakovich. It's a work of subdued tones and intimations of darkness especially in the first movement. The subtle brilliance of this recording can be heard at tr. 3, 5.51 where the sustained resonance of a gong-stroke is grippingly put across - a delight. In the last movement wheeling and darting brilliance combines with a slightly Shostakovichian flavouring.
Chagrin was active in the worlds of concert music and film. His Helter Skelter overture bestrides the two being based on music he had written for the frothy 1949 film of the same name. Its not quite as pell-mell as you might expect from the title but the atmosphere is certainly as jaunty and uproarious as the cinema music of Auric. Peter Warlock's Serenade for Strings is given a rather pressed performance - more lilt and less impatience would have helped as it did when it was recorded for EMI Classics by Norman del Mar in the late 1960s. It is no surprise that it was written in 1922 for Delius's sixtieth birthday. While Braithwaite might well have miscalculated on the Warlock he is just confidently magnificent in Beckus the Dandipratt which needs and here gets flighted energy, a twist and a skirl as well as a rambunctious snarl and volatility. This is for me the best and most rewarding reading the overture has had even allowing for the composer's own and that of Vernon Handley. Every detail tells whether it is in Rowlandson-style street hurly-burly or Ealing era insouciance.
The notes are by the always thoughtful and invaluably reflective Paul Conway. More please.
The motley nature of this collection and the imperative to use recordings cut loose by other, usually composer-themed, collections does not stop this assemblage having its own very welcome bouquet.
Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
Catalog Number: SRCD318
Composer: Alan Rawsthorne, David Morgan, Francis Chagrin, Henry Hugo Pierson, Malcolm Arnold, Peter Warlock
Conductor: Barry Wordsworth, John Pritchard, Nicholas Braithwaite, Vernon Handley
Orchestra/Ensemble: London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra