Themes & Variations: three sets of variations by a range of British composers from William Walton to Alexander Goehr:
Variations on an Elizabethan Theme, composed for the 1953 Aldeburgh Festival, is a set of seven variations on the 16th-century Sellengers Round, scored for string orchestra. Its plaintive melody arranged by Imogen Holst, friend and supporter of the Festival's founder Benjamin Britten is followed by variations by Arthur Oldham (a student of Brittens) and Humphrey Searle (among whose compositions are scores for the 1963 horror film The Haunting and episodes of Dr Who), as well as Benjamin Britten himself, Lennox Berkeley and Michael Tippett. A scintillating finale is provided by William Walton.
The 1966 Variations on a Welsh Hymn Tune (the featured tune being Brant) were commissioned to celebrate the building of the Severn Bridge, and bring together three Welsh and three English composers: Malcolm Arnolds contrapuntal opening is followed by variations from Grace Williams, Daniel Jones, Alun Hoddinott and Nicholas Maw. Michael Tippetts powerful and complex contribution, never before recorded, brings the work to an impressive close.
The disc is completed by the 1987 Aldeburgh Festival Variations a tribute to the earlier Aldeburgh set on the popular medieval round, Sumer is icumen in. Oliver Knussen's opening, a glittering introduction and bucolic setting of the theme, is followed by variations from a succession of acclaimed composers from Robin Holloways melancholy pastoral setting, and Judith Weirs dancing, Scottish-tinged contribution, to the explosive dissonance of Robert Saxtons variation, the uncharacteristically Elgarian nostalgia of Alexander Goehr's writing, and Colin Matthewss clamorous moto perpetuo. David Bedfords celebratory finale, with its tribute to Benjamin Britten, brings the work, and this disc, to a fitting close.