Classics for Pleasure were a budget label when I was still a boy, and not having seen much of them for years, I had presumed they were defunct, but then I discover this while following up on my current Delius investigations. Offered at a price that you can afford to take a chance on, but there is absolutely nothing budget about the recording or performance from 1994, from that late, lamented Vernon Handley, and the very fine Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. Piers Lane is a pianist who is cropping up in more and more places lately, and nothing I have heard from him so far has given cause for disappointment.
I actually purchased this for the Delius, but it's the Vaughan Williams that has proved the most impressive, and that will probably prompt a V.W. renaissance in my musical explorations. There's nothing wrong with the Delius. In fact it's very good, with many of the characteristic gestures those who know him will love, while also showing some interesting and less typical aspects of Delius' scope. But the V.W. is just so good, so thoroughly good in fact, that it proves an impossible act for the Delius to follow.
The opening movement has a first subject that has an almost jazz like exuberance and swagger, and a second that brings to mind shanties and hornpipes. Between them a world of huge invention and irresistible momentum is generated. The second movement is tender and mysterious, magical in fact, with strange chromatic piano figures rippling across music that is evocative of a moonlit night. The finale, opens with an immense fugue, with themes being exchanged between raucous brass and the piano pounding monstrously in the lower registers. This excitement gives way to more extremely delicate music, s the work goes out not with a bang but a whimper. My one criticism is formal, and would be that the opening movement is not quite ambitious enough in duration and weight to balance the two later movements. Nonetheless, all of the music we do get is hugely original, and has an invincible positivity that is rare in the music of any age. As such it's a hairs-breadth from being an unqualified masterpiece, in my humble estimation.
The final item of the set is the wonderfully pretty Eclogue by Finzi, with its extremely subtle and delicate phrasing. Finzi, is possibly the composer who has languished longest on my list of composers to be checked out, without ever quite bubbling to the top. Till that finally happens this provides a handsome down-payment on my future investigations.
on 22 June 2014
i heard Finzi,,,s, Eclogue for the first time and was spellbound and had to have it in my collection - it gives me great pleasure the rest of the recording is also brilliant I have recommended it to many of my friends