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John Joubert - Symphony No.2, William Alwyn - Prelude and Derrybeg Fair, Carlo Martelli - Symphony, Op.4
John Joubert - Symphony No.2, William Alwyn - Prelude and Derrybeg Fair, Carlo Martelli - Symphony, Op.4
Offered by Vocalion/Dutton Epoch Direct (Crazygreen8)
Price: £10.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars joubert and martelli, 26 July 2011
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The Dutton Epoch label continues apace with its releases of British music discoveries on this disc of works by Joubert (actually South African by birth), Alwyn and Martelli (English despite the Italian name). Joubert's Symphony No.2, written in memory of the victims of the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, is cast in one movement of four distinct sections marked lento-vivace-lento-vivace. Written in 1970, the work was banned by the SABC until the era of Nelson Mandela whose imprimatur marked the first South African performance. The piece opens gloomily with a throbbing rhythm in the lower strings. The mood is not unlike that of the first movement of Walton's First Symphony in places, but with less of the nervous energy. Eventually the music does gather intensity and pace with the heavy brass coming more to the fore, along with woodwind in a breezy mood. A climax is reached, signifying the beginning of the first vivace passage. This fast music is suspended by the interposition of a lento section based on a Zulu lament, but the tempo picks up pace once more, and the piece ends violently, in keeping with its subject.

The two William Alwyn numbers are drawn from an aborted opera, "The Fairy Fiddler" (1924). The first of these, the Prelude, finds the composer in his most pastoral vein, with a lightness of touch and an unmistakeably Irish lilt to the movement. "Derrybeg Fair" is a more skittish number with something of the Irish jig about it. The story concerns a couple of Donegal peasants, Terry and Clodagh. Terry is a fiddler whose touch has deserted him, while Clodagh, his beloved, has been struck dumb by an evil witch. With the help of the fairies, Terry is able to give his voice to Clodagh and finds that, although this leaves him dumb, his fiddling skills return. Naturally the violin takes a prominent role, and we are left to wonder what might have been had Alwyn completed his opera.

Carlo Martelli's early Symphony was written in 1955 while he was still a student at the RCM. It began life as a single movement work of 18 minutes duration, but, on the advice of Malcolm Arnold, was expanded to three movements. One does wonder about an "ad hoc" process of construction like this. I cannot see how the unity of the initial conception can be enhanced simply by prefixing the original with two further movements. What we are left with here is two shortish movements of predominantly fast music followed by a much longer third of predominantly slow music. Still, for a nineteen-year old student it is impressive stuff, and was recognised as such by the Times music critic following a performance of the work in 1957. There is a definite Scandinavian feel to it, but, despite the above critic's reference to Sibelius, more in the vein of Nielsen than of the Finnish master. Martelli will be better known to many as a composer of "light music", but this example of his serious output will leave the listener hungry for more - for despite my reservations about the shape of the piece, there is no doubting the power of the music with its rhythmic drive and its appealing tonal idiom.

Conductor Martin Yates is rapidly filling the boots of the late lamented Vernon Handley and Richard Hickox as a promoter of neglected English repertoire in the recording studio. Long may it continue.

Poem of Life & Love
Poem of Life & Love
Price: £15.13

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars delius orchestral works, 26 July 2011
This review is from: Poem of Life & Love (Audio CD)
This disc contains four Delius rarities: "Lebenstanz", "Suite for Irmelin" (edited and arranged by Sir Thomas Beecham), "Poem of Life and Love", and "Suite from A Village Romeo and Juliet" (arranged by David Matthews). These pieces come, on the whole, from Delius' early period, although the Poem dates from 1918. "Irmelin" and "A Village Romeo and Juliet" may have a familiar ring to them, but the music on offer is not that normally associated with these titles, and there is no Irmelin Prelude or Walk to the Paradisde Garden, of which there are numerous recordings already.

"Lebenstanz" - or Life's Dance - was composed in 1901 and revised in 1912. In a sense it sums up Delius' life-long interest in the philosophy of Nietzsche and in Norway and its creative artists. Musically it has the feel of the better-known "Song of the High Hills" in which, again, it is the Norwegian landscape that is in view. It was widely considered at the time to be one of Delius' best works, and was taken up in both England and Germany. Something of the mood of the piece is summed up in Delius' own statement that his intention was to depict "The Turbulence, the joy, the great striving of youth - all to end at last in the inevitable death."

Delius' opera "Irmelin" was written in 1890-92, and is based on the kind of fantastical or magical folk-like tale that seemed to so attract him. Although the story-line is not a million miles from that of "A Village Romeo and Juliet", the libretto (Delius' own) and music are inferior, the latter derivative of, but less accomplished than, Wagner at several points. Fortunately, Delius' great champion Sir Thomas Beecham gathered some of the better moments and, in 1955, wove them into this attractive five-movement suite. The popular Prelude (not recorded here), based on music from the opera, was composed by Delius in 1931 with the help of his amanuensis Eric Fenby.

Although Delius had little interest in musical forms, "Poem of Life and Love" is perhaps best described as a symphonic poem. The character of the music suggests that Delius here understands "life" in the Nietzschean sense of heroism, and "love" as nature-worship. Delius was never quite satisfied with the work as it stood, and kept revising it. Finally, again with the help of Fenby, he recast the central section as "A Song of Summer". We have Dutton to thank for allowing us to hear the work as originally conceived.

Delius' opera "A Village Romeo and Juliet", based on a Swiss tale about the offspring of two warring farmers who fall madly in love and eventually enter into a suicide pact, has occasionally (if rarely) been staged, and is available on record, but, as the work derives much of its force from its many purely orchestral interludes, this orchestral suite, arranged by composer David Matthews, accurately captures the mood and character of the original opera.

Over the years, David Lloyd-Jones has become a significant champion of British music in the recording studio, and here he conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra with his usual panache.

Vaughan Williams/ Hadley: Garden Of Proserpine/ In The Fen Country/ Fen And Flood
Vaughan Williams/ Hadley: Garden Of Proserpine/ In The Fen Country/ Fen And Flood
Price: £12.21

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars vaughan williams & hadley, 10 Jun. 2011
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Albion's excellent series of Vaughan Williams rarities continues with this latest instalment which includes a world premiere recording of "The Garden of Proserpine" for mezzo-soprano, chorus and orchestra - VW's earliest large-scale attempt in the use of such forces. The text he sets is a 12-stanza poem by A.C. Swinburne in which the oblivion of death is welcomed as a solurion to life's woes. At this point in his life VW was probably still an atheist (before he settled into a comfortable agnosticism), so Swinburne's poem would have had an instant appeal. For all its influences, the music is not simply warmed-up Wagner or Brahms (or Parry), and there is more than a hint of the mature composer who, in barely ten years time, would be turning out a Sea Symphony (for rather similar forces).

The other VW piece on the disc is the better-known "In the Fen Country". Although written only five years after the above work (1904), it displays significant advances towards full maturity, including the folksong-like inflections and modalism we find in the Norfolk Rhapsody No.1 and, later, The Lark Ascending. There are some lovely instrumental solos, particularly for oboe and viola, which imbue the work with an air of desolation so redolent of the East Anglian landscape.

Alongside these VW works we have - at long last - a recording of Patrick Hadley's "Fen and Flood", although in VW's arrangement for SATB chorus (Hadley had composed it for male voices only). Like many of Hadley's major works (his masterpiece "The Trees So High" is the notable exception), the form of the piece is that of a montage, with fifteen short movements divided into two parts. Hadley avails himself of the opportunity to take us on a guided tour around East Anglia and its history, with movements entitled "The Monks of Ely", "The Dissolution", "Walsingham", and so forth, and there is ample room for the rendition of some Norfolk folksongs, including "The Painful Plough" and the haunting "Lynn (or Captain's) Apprentice". The wole piece, however, leads up to a climax depicting the disastrous floods that hit Norfolk (and Holland) on 31st. January 1953 when some 2,400 people lost their lives. The work ends with "St. Nicholas", a sturdy hymn of adoration, acknowledging God's sovereign power to save and protect.

The final short piece on the disc is VW's arrangement of "The Captain's Apprentice" (which he employed to good effect in his Norfolk Rhapsody No.1), here for baritone solo, which makes for an interesting contrast with Hadley's treatment of the same folksong in Fen and Flood.

All the forces (Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Paul Daniel; the Joyful Company of Singers, and soloists) perform well throughout, resulting in a superb CD which no lover of English music can afford to be without.

Leighton: Missa De Gloria
Leighton: Missa De Gloria
Price: £7.75

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leighton: Organ Music, 19 May 2011
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Kenneth Leighton (1929-88) was a significant twentieth century English composer who wrote in most genres (symphonies, concertos, chamber music, choral music and solo piano music) and held several university posts, most notably Reid Professor of Music at Edinburgh University. Yet his music was never dry and academic, but was imbued with a certain lyrical romanticism without, however, losing its technical precision. This Naxos recording presents us with three important works for organ. "Et Resurrexit" explores the struggle for belief in Christ's resurrection, and is a suitably restless, stormy piece in three parts: Theme, Fantasy and Fugue. The power of invention, based on a simple four-note motif announced at the outset, is impressive, and the music proceeds inexorably through a series of climaxes to a breath-taking conclusion.

The Hymn-Tune Fantasies, as the title suggests, comprise a series of improvisations on well-known hymn tunes - St. Columba, Veni Emmanuel, and Hanover (O Worship the King). As with the previous work, the tunes are subjected to a wide range of moods and musical ideas, although in each case the hymn tune is never far from the surface. The tendency in all these pieces is for an increase in dynamics and texture as the music moves to its climax, although Veni Emmanuel ends on a reflective note.

The most ambitious and longest work on the programme (at 40 minutes) is the Missa de Gloria, written for the Dublin International Organ Festival, and first performed there (in St. Patrick's Cathedral) in 1980. Based on an Easter Day plainchant from the twelfth-century Sarum rite, the work's six movements follow the conventions of the Mass in ordinary (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus/ Benedictus, and Agnus Dei) with the addition of a concluding "Ite missa est", but the solo organ represents the text, which is not set here. The Kyrie is a slow, austere movement, full of dissonance, while, by contrast, the Gloria is an angry, stormy piece that builds to a huge climax with the organ in full-throated splendour. The character of the Credo is accurately described by Leighton himself as "fairly soft throughout, but with frequent changes in colour", although there are one or two more agitated moments. Both the Sanctus/ Benedictus and Agnus Dei are subject to a surprisingly stormy treatment, given the nature of the implied text, although the music becomes more restrained in the Benedictus, and the Agnus Dei ends serenely, as the underlying words "dona nobis pacem" direct. The "Ita missa est" is suitably celebratory in nature, and takes the form of a vigorous toccata, with plenty of pyrotechnics for the organist to negotiate.

On this recording Greg Morris, Associate Organist of the Temple Church in London, performs on the organ of Blackburn Cathedral, a comparatively modern instrument built by J. W. Walker & Sons in 1969, and rebuilt by Wood of Huddersfield (just down the road from Leighton's native Wakefield) in 2002. It is certainly a formidable instrument, the capacities of which Leighton's music exploits to the full.

Corp: The Ice Mountain
Corp: The Ice Mountain
Offered by Solway-Books
Price: £3.23

5.0 out of 5 stars Corp: Ice Mountain, 19 May 2011
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This review is from: Corp: The Ice Mountain (Audio CD)
Ronald Corp's "The Ice Mountain" is an opera for children lasting just under the hour. It is refreshing to find that the entire cast (even the adult characters) is made up of young people (on this recording the New London Children's Choir) without any intrusive adult imput (other than Corp's conducting). This gives the work a fresh, uninhibited feel. Corp wisely restricts his accompaniment to an instrumental ensemble including one each of violin, cello, flute, clarinet, horn and percussion, with the piano playing a vital role. This restricted instrumentation allows the voices to penetrate the texture, so that the diction is crystal clear. Like Britten, Corp avoids writing down to his young performers, but he does have an instinct for the kind of music he knows they will enjoy singing, and there is a melodic charm that it would be difficult for even the most curmudgeonly individual to resist.

The story is based on an old Swiss folktale, and contains folk music elements. It concerns a group of villagers who live in the shadow of an icy mountain, and is really a metaphor for the cycle of life and death. Each of the four acts corresponds to one of the seasons. The action begins in winter when the mountain, with its susceptibility to avalanches, is at its most threatening. Yet it is the home of lost spirits, unseen by the villagers except by a lonely old woman who lives just outside the village. She is still in mourning for her husband and son who were lost up the mountain many years ago, and she welcomes the mountain spirits into her home.

Act Two depicts the village in spring when the people are alive with hope and love is in the air. This buoyant mood persists into the summer (Act 3). The villagers are sympathetic to the old woman's plight, and implore her to join in with them in their activities, but she prefers to remain in the shadow of the mountain, thinking of the past. However, when they have gone she determines to go and see the festivities for herself, but on the journey back home she collapses and dies. When the mountain spirits see no light of welcome in the woman's home they are distraught.

In Act 4 (Autumn) the villagers discover the bodies of the woman's husband and son, but when they go to inform the old woman, they find that she, too, is dead. They reflect on the fact that this must be the lot of everyone, but there is joy as well as sorrow, for birth and death alike belong to the cycle of nature - one is impossible without the other. And so the opera ends on a note of stoical acceptance.

"The Ice Mountain" has been written with present performance rather than with posterity in mind, but for those who are captivated by the sound of young voices making music, it will be a welcome addition to the repertoire.

Britten: A Ceremony of Carols
Britten: A Ceremony of Carols
Price: £12.82

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars britten/ poston choral music, 5 May 2011
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Britten's "A Ceremony of Carols" is one of his best-known choral works, and has been recorded on several occasions. This recent (2010) rendition is performed by the girls of the National Youth Choir of Scotland (made up of young people between the ages of 13-15), accompanied by Claire Jones, official harpist to the Prince of Wales. Britten wrote extensively for young people, and never made the mistake of patronising or writing down to them. Consequently, there are some demanding passages in the present work, such as the nimble part-writing in "This Little Babe", and the rhythmic vitality of "Deo Gracias". Claire Jones has the chance to show off her virtuosity in the Interlude for harp solo.

As I have stated, there are several fine recordings of the Ceremony of Carols. What makes this disc distinctive is its pairing with the much less familiar "An English Day-Book" by Elizabeth Poston (1905-87). Poston was a woman of many parts - folksong collector, director of music for the BBC European Service, concert pianist, and composer (she wrote the score for the TV production of Howard's End). She even found time to study architecture in Europe. The "Day-Book" was, in all probability, modelled on Britten's "Ceremony", and so the two make an ideal pairing on this CD. The forces are the same (children's choir and harp), and the structure is very similar - several short settings of poems, both sacred and secular, with, once again, a harp interlude effectively dividing the songs into two sets of five. The Bellman's Song both opens and closes the sequence, giving it a cyclical effect. Given that the previous recordings of Poston's work have been restricted to one or two carol arrangements ("Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree" being the most familiar) the "Day-Book" is a welcome addition to the record catalogue, and may help to make this all-but-forgotten composer better-known.

The programme concludes with two short contemporary pieces for unaccompanied choir. "On a Summer Night", by Oliver Iredale Searle (b. 1977), is a setting of a poem by a girl who was killed in an accident at the age of 19, and which concludes with the poignant lines: "My whole being mirthful rings/ Not yet, I say. Don't mourn me yet!" The final work, "The Ears of Mr. Tuer", by Stephen Deazley (b. 1969), is a tuneful rendition of a poem about an "omniverous collector" from nineteenth century London, which includes examples from his collection of old London street cries.

All in all - a varied and entertaining collection of twentieth century choral music for children's voices, well performed under the baton of Christopher Bell, and well-presented, as ever, on the Siglum label. One small quibble: the length of this CD - under 50 minutes - is less generous than we have become accustomed to. However, full texts are included with the liner notes.

Bax; Clarke; Walton; Bridge: English Works for Viola and Piano
Bax; Clarke; Walton; Bridge: English Works for Viola and Piano
Price: £8.06

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars English Viola Music, 3 May 2011
It is well-known that in Britain the viola was the cinderella of instruments until its profile was raised by the tireless efforts of the famous violist Lionel Tertis who commissioned viola works from the leading British composers of the day, and rearranged others for his instrument. So it is thanks in no small measure to him that we now have so many viola pieces to enjoy, a selection of which appears on this Naxos CD.

Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979), though not a household name, was the first female student at the RCM, and a promising talent. On the advice of the formidable Sir Charles Villiers Stanford she took up the instrument herself, and the Viola Sonata recorded here is her most substantial work. It explores the full range of the instrument in an attractive tonal style whose Englishness is unmistakeable, and betrays the influence of folksong here and there - either directly, or through Vaughan Williams who Clake herself confesses was an influence on her early work in general. The Sonata won second prize in the Coolidge competition (it tied with a work by Ernst Bloch, but Elizabeth Coolidge had the casting vote), but such were the chauvinist attitudes of the time that it was suggested in some circles that it was impossible a woman could have written it, and even - ironically - that "Rebecca Clarke" was a pseudonym for Bloch.

The other substantial piece on the disc is the Suite for Viola and Piano by the little-known Theodore Holland (1878-1947), a teacher at the RAM for some years. Like Clarke, he exlpores the viola's range. Although marked "allegro vigoroso" the nature of the first movement is equally as lyrical as it is lively. The heart of the piece is the deeply felt Romance in which the viloa sings with a plaintive voice. The finale is brisk and buoyant with a contrasting slower section.

Bax's Legend for Viola and Piano begins with a base ostinato for piano alone, after which the viola steals in almost apologetically before finding its true voice. Characteristically, Bax leads the listener through a whole range of moods and emotions, remarkable in such a short piece.

The Vaughan Williams Romance was found among his papers after his death and first performed posthumously in 1962. It is a short, passionate work, as befits its title, but ends quietly and serenely.

The remaining works, by Walton, Bridge and Bliss, are all transcriptions of pieces originally written for violin. Walton's Two Pieces (Canzonetta and Scherzetto) are based on the troubador tradition. Bridge's Four Pieces were written over the period 1901-10. The Berceuse consists of a fluent melody in the viola with a lilting piano accompaniment, and has something of the drawing room atmosphere. The lyrical mood is maintained in the remaining pieces - Serenade, Elegy and Cradle Song, although the Elegy is more muted and wistful, and the Cradle Song has a gently rocking motion on the piano.

Bliss's Intermezzo is a transcription taken from the central movement of the composer's Piano Quartet of 1915, and remains generally buoyant throughout its two-minute duration.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 27, 2014 7:48 PM GMT

Holst - In the Bleak Midwinter [DVD] [NTSC]
Holst - In the Bleak Midwinter [DVD] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Tony Palmer
Price: £13.99

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Holst - In the Bleak Midwinter, 3 May 2011
Tony Palmer's "In the Bleak Midwinter" (named after Rossetti's famous carol) is a full-length portrait of the English composer Gustav Holst (who supplied the melody). It is clearly modelled on Palmer's earlier portrait of Vaughan Williams ("O Thou Transcendent"); indeed, the two composers were lifelong friends. The same conductors (Tamas Vasary and Sian Edwards) are used, along with comments from the same music critic Stephen Johnson, and the back-lighting technique used in the orchestral sequences is also similar, as are the images of the English landscape and of human suffering - so these documentaries can perhaps be regarded as a pair. Of the various people interviewed (including Holst's biographer, and an ex-pupil of his from St. Paul's Girls' School where he taught for thirty years), undoubtedly the most valuable insights come from Holst's daughter, Imogen (1907-84), whose musical life and personality was interesting enough to merit a film portrait in their own right. There is a marvellous clip of her conducting one of her father's suites for wind band with her legendary infectious enthusiasm.

Among the features stressed in the film are Holst's workaholic nature despite frequent ill health, his radical socialism, and his desire to open music-making to all classes - something which he achieved with resounding success at Morley College (where he took evening classes after teaching at St. Paul's during the day). Although Holst demanded the highest standards of himself and his fellow professionals, he fully accepted the limitations of amateur musicians, and was tireless in encouraging their efforts. Something is made, too, of his eclecticism - his interest in astrology and in Eastern religions - even to the extent of teaching himself Sanskrit in order to be able to set Hindu texts, such as the Hymns of the Rig Veda, to his own English translation.

Of his musical output, inevitably The Planets takes precedence, although the various examples of how the "big" tune from Jupiter has been used (or abused) over the years - ostensibly to support the contention that Holst eschewed its use for the hymn "I Vow to Thee, My Country" - are rather overdone. On the other hand, Stephen Johnson's elucidation of how striking this work would have sounded to an audience in the 1920s, citing examples from Mars, is fascinating, and the extracts from the piece, played by the Savaria Symphony Orchestra (who?), and passionately conducted by Tamas Vasary, are well done.

There is still plenty of time to visit a range of other works by Holst, including extracts from The Perfect Fool, The Lure, The Cotswold Symphony, Ode to Death, and the setting of Psalm 86, along with one or two folksong arrangements - but nothing, unfortunately, of the Hymn of Jesus, which is surely one of the composer's most striking works.

Does Palmer's portrait of Holst match the one of Vaughan Williams? Not quite, perhaps - but it certainly does not deserve the disdainful remarks it has received in some circles, and the Amazon price is reasonable enough, considering that the film lasts well over two hours. Most people who enjoyed Palmer's "O Thou Transcendent" will, I am sure, enjoy "In the Bleak Midwinter".
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 9, 2011 5:08 PM BST

Solemn Overture / Paschal Hymn / Symphony No. 5
Solemn Overture / Paschal Hymn / Symphony No. 5
Price: £16.58

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars kilar symphony no.5, 13 April 2011
Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932) is perhaps best-known for his film scores, especially that for Bram Stoker's "Dracula", but he has also composed some large-scale "serious" works, including the Missa Pro Pace, the September Symphony (in memory of the victims of 9/11), and a piano concerto, as well as some powerful shorter orchestral works and choral pieces such as Exodus and Krzesany. The present recording, which includes the recent Symphony No.5 ("Advent"), typifies the composer's present style and its similarity to that of his compatriot and contemporary Henryk Gorecki (b. 1933). Kilar's compositions are full of pulsating ostinato rhythms; powerful, slowly-building climaxes; and a propensity for soft minimalism. The composer does have his critics, but those who warm to his qualities will find his music compelling.

The programme on this disc begins with a "Solemn Overture" in which all the typical Kilar hallmarks are evident. Despite the title, it is perhaps more accurate to describe this music as serious rather than overtly solemn. It opens with a stirring brass fanfare which soon yields to an intense passage in the lower strings. The two ideas then alternate until, some four minutes into the piece, the tempo picks up and, beginning with strings in the bottom register, the music begins to soar inexorably towards its inevitable climax, after which a decisive conclusion is reached.

The Paschal Hymn, for "a capella" choir, is well-placed to allow us to recover our breath prior to the onset of the Fifth Symphony. Not that the Hymn is a mere palate-cleanser in any way. The choir sings in unison throughout, in long-breathed passages punctuated by strategic pauses, all of which imbues the piece with a ritualistic, chant-like quality. Once again, there is an air of inevitability, as if the music has a single-minded mission to fulfil its destiny. Its ultimate resolution on the word "hallelujah" is truly thrilling.

The four-movement symphony is predominantly slow in tempo. The use of choir and concertante piano is typical of Kilar's extended orchestral works. The piece relies heavily on chordal movement and key-changes. Much of the melodic line in the opening movement is carried by the choir against a single sustained chord in the strings, with the piano underscoring modulations elsewhere in the orchestra. The second movement begins with lower strings playing pizzicato, then building a beautiful slow melody which steadily rises through the orchestra. The third movement is based on a soft, treading pulse set up by timpani and piano, while growling brass, woodwind and strings build a melody above it. Here Kilar's soft minimalism is at its most pronounced. Throughout this movement the choir is silent, but returns to the fray in the finale with the words "Veni Domine Jesu" sung with a mantra-like intensity. The powerful rhythmic opening ends in a pause, after which the mood becomes more relaxed. A lonely oboe carries the argument forward, followed by various other winds in turn - clarinet, bassoon, flute - before the strings break in with a sturdy march-like theme. This prepares the way for a return of the choir with its "Veni" motif, offering us a sustained sense of assurance before ending with a restrained, benedictory "Amen".

The Silesian Philharmonic Orchestra, under Miroslaw Blaszczyk, plays its heart out, and the choir offers stirling support. The quality of the recording is also excellent, so it is a complete mystery to me why the producers chose to engage someone who was clearly not up to the task of translating the Polish liner notes into intelligible English. That aside, however, this is a splendid recording of music with expressive power and religious intensity.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 22, 2013 9:50 AM BST

Peter Warlock - Some Little Joy (Mark Dexter/ Lucy Brown - A film by Tony Britten) [DVD] [2008]
Peter Warlock - Some Little Joy (Mark Dexter/ Lucy Brown - A film by Tony Britten) [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Mark Dexter
Price: £8.27

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Warlock: Some Little Joy, 11 April 2011
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"Some Little Joy" in an 88-minute dramatisation about the composer Philip Heseltine (1894-1930) - better known as Peter Warlock. For those who are already acquainted with Warlock's disordered life, there are few surprises here. The "wine (or beer, in his case), women and song" are there in abundance. The film is full of scenes of intoxication and the bedroom - even to the extent of three-in-a-bed at one point! Most of Warlock's acquaintances of that time put in an appearance - E.J. Moeran (alias Raspberry), Hal Collins, Lord Berners, Bernard van Dieren, Delius, Augustus John, John Goss - as does his formidable mother Edith. But these are simply figures on stage, and there is no attempt to develop them as characters in their own right, or to explore their personal relationships with Warlock.

As a period piece the film works well. The cottage interiors have a cosy 1920s feel to them, the pubs are suitably basic and frowsty, and the outdoor village life is convincing, with some interesting vintage transport (although the GWR locomotive "City of Truro" would never have been seen at Eynsford in Kent!). Why the sun is always shining I'm not quite sure: even Raspberry, at one point, wishes it would rain.

The period action is set against the background of a modern-day meeting of the Peter Warlock Society at one of the composer's favourite London pubs, and these scenes act as book-ends for the period action. Music from the Capriol Suite serves as an idee-fixe, but we are also treated to snatches of The Curlew, and some of the other songs - the Frostbound Wood and the Fox, among others.

As I have noted, Warlock's dissolute lifestyle is stressed, but his penchant for hard work, though hinted at, is never really shown in action. Yet, as Elizabeth Poston once remarked, the sheer volume of his work, over just a dozen years or so - the compositions, including well over 100 songs, the music journalism, his editorship of the short-lived "Sackbut" journal, books on composers such as Gesualdo and his all-time hero Delius, his promotion of concerts of music by Delius and van Dieren (which is stressed in the film), the editing of hundreds of Elizabethan lute-songs, and the copious letter-writing - proves that he could not have lived in a perpetual alchoholic haze.

Warlock's confidence is presented as fragile, and his friends are forever telling him how brilliant he is, while he himself laments his limited technique. Although the dialogue here sounds a little contrived, it does raise the whole question of genius. It seems to me that this word is often used all too loosely of creative artists, particularly of troubled spirits like Warlock and Ivor Gurney. In Warlock's case it would be more accurate to say that he was potentially an exceptional composer hampered by limitations of technique (owing to lack of self-discipline), whose finest work was touched by genius.

All in all, this film is a faithful presentation of Warlock's final years prior to his untimely death. It has no particular axes to grind or theories to expostulate. It is ideal as a brief, palatable introduction for the newcomer to Warlock, and perhaps an impetus to further study.

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