This is the first of two CDs released (2007) in recent years by the Dutton Laboratories on the Epoch label of music by Bainton and Boughton. Edgar Bainton (1880-1956) and Rutland Boughton (1878-1960) were two contemporary English composers who, although composing during the 20th century, wrote music that is immediately accessible, enjoyable and uplifting to the spirit: many 20th century compositions are quite challenging for the listener. Their compositions are thoroughly workmanlike rather than startlingly original and provide most satisfying listening. Both works are in four movements. The Boughton first symphony (of three) is subtitled ‘Oliver Cromwell’ and, to me, captures something of the character of the man as I have read about it. The direct source of inspiration for the work were the ‘Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell’ compiled by the Scottish philosopher-historian, Thomas Carlyle.
One feature I was not prepared for on a first listening to the Boughton was the baritone solo rendition of Cromwell’s last prayer in the final movement. It reminded me of my first hearing of Mahler’s 4th Symphony with the soprano soloist in the final movement. The soloist here is Roderick Williams and the orchestra in both works is the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Vernon Handley. The Bainton work is his third and final symphony in c minor. Anyone who enjoys the music of the early 20th century English composers Hubert Parry and Charles Villiers Stanford will find much to admire here in the symphonies by these too little heard composers. To my mind, they certainly bear favourable comparison with the earlier masters.