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Colin W. Lees "Colin" (UK)

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Delius: The Royal Philharmonic Collection
Delius: The Royal Philharmonic Collection
Offered by Music-Club
Price: 22.90

4.0 out of 5 stars So who is the conductor here?, 3 Jun 2013
I've owned this disc for some years but it was only recently that I transferred it to my iPod. When I put it into the computer, I found that the iTunes listing showed the conductor of each track to be Yuri Simonov, current director of the Moscow Philharmonic. I know little about how CDs are produced but I do recall that the deceptions perpetrated by pianist Joyce Hatto and her husband were exposed when the digital information displayed on the CD player named pianists other than Miss Hatto. I suppose that in the case of this disc, there's been a genuine error somewhere but I'd still like to know who actually conducted these pieces.

Cowell: Symphony No. 2 - ''Anthropos''
Cowell: Symphony No. 2 - ''Anthropos''
Price: 3.96

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great to hear this rarity, 12 May 2012
A while back Leon Botstein and the A.M.S.O. gave a concert devoted to Cowell's music in New York in which (I believe) this symphony was performed. Wish I could have been there! In fact, I suspect that this may have been recorded at that concert. Cowell is a much underrated composer who deserves to be heard more often and so three very loud cheers for the enterprising Mr Botstein and his band.

I only know Cowell's symphonies through digital re-issues of old LPs so it's good to hear one of them in a modern recording but it's a shame more of an effort wasn't made to remove audience noise between tracks - and there's a single clap at the very end which could easily have been edited out. But that's a small quibble. This symphony is, like most of Cowell's music, eccentric but highly engaging. I know of know other composer who can sound avant-garde, whilst in the same work use beautiful, modal melodies that might've given Vaughan Williams a twinge of envy! As far as I know 'Anthropos' refers to the first human, or the origins of humanity (hence 'anthropology') but I don't quite know what we're supposed to make of the title as it applies to this music. There are no sleeve notes with downloads, of course!

The first movement is slow and introductory in nature, with rather lovely themes. The second is a short, rhythmically interesting scherzo, very percussive. The third movement is an astringent, rather tense slow movement (the longest of the four) and the finale is an invigorating and extremely enjoyable allegro, excitingly scored, on what sounds like Gaelic folk themes (Cowell's next symphony, the 3rd, is called 'The Gaelic' and has never been recorded - yes, Mr Botstein, that is a hint!) How good would it be to have recordings of the 3rd, 4th and 5th symphonies next (you could get them all on one disc). Or what about a complete cycle of all 15 (or is it 16)? Perhaps Naxos could contact Mr Botstein with an offer. . .

If you're interested in American music, do give this a try. For not much more than 3.00 what have you got to lose?

Vaughan Williams: Folksong Arrangements [British Composers]
Vaughan Williams: Folksong Arrangements [British Composers]
Price: 7.00

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting, 5 April 2009
I once owned these songs on LP and - long after I'd ditched my LP collection for CD's - I remembered them and hoped that one day they would re-appear on compact disc.

Folk song was in RVW's blood, of course; if not from birth, from the time when he began collecting old songs from elderly singers in East Anglia, and it was folk song from which - with English music of the Tudor age - he forged his own inimitable musical voice. So these songs must have had a special place in the composer's heart.

Back in the early years of the 20th century, those eager to preserve folk-song thought that the only way to keep them in the public consciousness was to turn them into 'art-songs', performed either by trained soloists with instrumental accompaniment or by choral groups. These settings are in that tradition, of course. RVW, Holst, Cecil Sharp and the other collectors could not have anticipated the rise, later in the century, of interest in singing these songs in a more 'authentic' style by untrained and often unaccompanied singers.

No one sets folk-songs better than RVW. To my ears, his settings are as heart-felt and sincere as Britten's are arch and affected. The performances could not be bettered and, as the previous reviewer says so eloquently, track 21 "How Cold the Wind Doth Blow" is a deeply moving masterpiece.

Tragedy at Law
Tragedy at Law
by Cyril Hare
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.37

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Legal Page-Turner, 29 Mar 2009
This review is from: Tragedy at Law (Paperback)
Much of the considerable charm of this ingenious crime novel lies in its picturesque period setting, during the phoney war of 1940. The story unfolds as Mr Justice Barber makes his stately progress around the Southern Circuit, calling at one county town after another, to dispense justice in the King's name. This is a world in which an English town, whose court-house has been closed for perhaps five months since the last assize, has only five or six serious cases to be heard, a world where trials are conducted in quaint old court-rooms, where a case of murder can be dealt with in less than two days (the jury considering its verdict for all of half an hour) and where the judge must be treated, quite literally, as though he were the monarch he represents.

Most classic English crime novels are set in a closed community: country house, school, hospital or whatever. But by setting his story on the legal circuit, Hare is able to vary the setting, as the judge and his legal entourage move from Assize Town to Assize Town, each of which has its own special character. But the community - the judge, his wife, his Marshal, his clerk, and a retinue of servants - is still a closed one in which each figure has a significant part to play in the complex and intriguing tale.

The highly engaging cast of characters includes Pettigrew - a sort of proto-Rumpole - an ageing junior barrister whose courtroom wit and occasional levity at judges' expense may have hindered his career; Derek Marshal, the judge's assistant, whose honourable nature and considerable intelligence is somewhat compromised by youth and lack of experience; Lady Barber, the judge's alluring young wife, denied a brilliant career at the Bar because of pre-war prejudice against women, and Beamish, the judge's clerk - a man with more than one secret to hide.

All in all, this novel offers everything the genre ought to offer a reader: an interesting setting, varied and engaging characters, an intricate and intriguing plot and a surprising denoument. And while most crime novels begin with a crime, this one brilliantly varies the classic form by placing the crime at the end of the story! Anyone who enjoys complex and intelligent crime fiction of the old-school, written with dry wit and a certain amused detachment, will relish this novel. That's a promise.

Bate: Concerto for Viola & Orchestra / Vaughan Williams: Romance / Bell: Rosa Mystica
Bate: Concerto for Viola & Orchestra / Vaughan Williams: Romance / Bell: Rosa Mystica
Price: 15.59

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Discoveries, 13 Mar 2009
Though I regard myself as a bit of a British Music buff, I had never heard of either Stanley Bate or W H Bell, and I only bought this disc because I wanted the RVW rarity which occupies less than six minutes of the whole disc.

But these two concertos have turned out to be very rewarding pieces, to which I have returned time and again. As other reviewers have already mentioned, RVW is a major influence in Bates's concerto, where his benign presence is felt most sharply in the first movement, with its Tallis Fantasia chords, and echoes - albeit fleeting ones - of Job and A London Symphony.

W H Bell's Concerto is a very attractive work, notable for a quotation from a Palestrina motet and the tender, shapely theme which represents the 'Rosa Mystica' of the work's title, an allusion to the Virgin Mary and to Christmas. This theme appears three times in movement 1 and reappears towards the end of the third movement, as a sort of valedictory gesture.

For me, the highest level of inspiration in both works is to be found in their first movements and both works are beautifully played and recorded. There are a few errors in the sleeve notes (Palestrina's motet is "Assumpta est Maria" not "Assumption", and Bell was born a year before Holst not a year after) but that's a small criticism, I guess.

If you're interested in British music of the 20th century, or you if have a special love for the viola, you'll enjoy this record, especially at such a sensible price.

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