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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best composer you've never heard of,
At the tail end of 2004, this got a lot of review space on the radio with many critics singing the praises of the "Lyra Celtica", a two movement Concerto for voice that employed microtonal devices even though written in the 1920's. I was very intrigued by the tale of this innovative composer whose reputation faded to practically nothing after his death in 1939.
Whilst the aforementioned piece is interesting, particularly the second movement, it is the Three Mantras from "Avatara" that open the first third of this 78 minute disc that really captures the imagination. The burst of horns that open the first movement remind me somewhat of Strauss's infamous bedroom scene music from the "Rosenkavalier" Here is a contemporary of Elgar and Delius writing in a style that is pitched somewhere between the mysticism of Holst and the sensuous exoticism of early Messaien. (Before he discovered his own style. )This is stirring music, the second movment of which features the haunting sound of a children's choir. The composition concludes with the stirring strings and brass creating a maelstrom of sound punctuated with various percussion. Echoes of Holst's "Mars" here, but really this is something wholly superior. This is a work of a truly amazing talent, a composer in the ranks of the very greatest.
The "Lyra Celtica" is also of interest , although the second movment is the better part. Concertos for Voice are a bit of an acquired taste and this struck me as being a something of a period piece. (Almost like something you would hear on one of those old sci-fi films of yesteryear.)
After this comes the earliest composition, a one movement orchestral piece for Orchestra and violin called "Apotheosis" that opens by suggesting something else before quickly settling into the Romantic idiom of the late Nineteenth Century. However, we are still talking about very good music - even if Foulds was yet to find his voice as a composer.
The final Orchestral piece , "Mirage", similarly demonstrates Fould's ability to write and is nearly as good as "Avantara". This music has a brooding menance, far removed from the pastoralism usually expected by English composers. In many respects, it bears a closer resemblence to Rickard Strauss. This too is a significant composition and he again employs microtonal devices, this time in the strings. "Mirage" is another composition of real gravitas, the emotion almost over-powering in the final movement.
The playing of the Birmingham S.O under Sakari Oramo, a champion for Foulds, is some of the best that I have in my collection of classical records. I cannot imagine this music getting a more sympathetic reading.
In conclusion, I would give this fantastic CD more than 5 stars if possible. It is amazing how music as brilliant as this could be neglected for seventy years. I cannot recommend this record strongly enough and would urge all fans of classic music to explore the music of John Foulds as, based on the music on this disc, he was one of the foremost composers of his day. The question to be asked is surely that if of what little else remains of his music is as good as this, was John Foulds not this country's greatest ever composer ?
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Three Mantras,
I agree totally with the first reviewer here. This is a stunning recording by a true champion of Foulds. I'm not sure he was Britain's greatest composer but he probably is the most woefuly neglected.
The Three Mantras should certainly be viewed as one of the great works in the British orchestral repertoire. Like Holst, he had an interest in eastern mythology and writings as well as the music and its scales. This is more apparent in his work than in Holst's work with a more advanced use of Indian scales and quarter tones. The three movements are indeed a heady mixture with the first mixing Richard Strauss with Messiaen hurtling breathlessly forward and the slow movement echoing Holst in the use of a wordless choir. Having said that, it sounds a far more advanced, anticipating more contemporary music like John Adams. It truly is blissful and luxurious music. The finale does indeed outdo Holst's Planets but I must say, powerful as it is, the music still seems to dance with the most English hobnail boots. Foulds is a transcendentalist but, in the finale, manages to sound pretty earthy.
The remaining works can never live up to this msot exalted standard but are strong nevertheless. The Lyra Celtica is indeed a bit of a well constructed novelty but a vocalising solist cannot sustain interest for the full length of the piece and it does sound a bit dated.
Apotheosis is a fine violin concerto in the late romantic mould whilst the Mirages are again more advanced harmonically. they are not quite on the same level as the amazing Mantras.
Never mind. This is a stunning recording and after you've heard the Three Mantras you'll be passed caring what comes next - it's that good.
5.0 out of 5 stars Languishing in a Library,
Fould's MSS are now held by the University of Bristol but desperately need recording. I would urge artists and Record companies to start on that. Callum MacDonald rescued most of Fould's MSS which are now being preserved.
4.0 out of 5 stars Original Music,
I'd not even heard of John Foulds until very recently. I bought this on the strength of some very favorable reviews and on the whole was not disappointed. Agree with other reviewers best pieces are the 'Three Mantra' and 'Mirage' (echoes of 'Also Sprach Zarathustra' of 2001 fame). Of the other works 'Apotheosis' I found to be the most satisfying (if you are in the mood for a little sadness!)
5.0 out of 5 stars John Foulds: Mantras and Mirage,
Here is music composed by a 20th century English composer that has a distinctive new sound but is still essentially lyrical and tonal. There is no sign of the `pastoral' string and woodwind sound that is often associated with 20th century English composers, like Vaughan Williams, Butterworth and Finzi. Foulds was born in Manchester in 1880, the son of a bassoonist in the Hallé orchestra.
This CD opens with the mystical Three Mantras for orchestra that are now all that are left of a Sanskrit opera, Avatara, that Foulds worked on in the 1920s. These are followed by another spiritual-sounding work - the Lyra Celtica, a vocalise concerto for voice and orchestra: the singer is the mezzo-soprano Susan Bickley, who has a quite lovely timbre to her voice. Next is the Apotheosis or Elegy `dedicated to the memory of Joseph Joachim'. Unsurprisingly therefore it is a relatively short (12 min) concerto for violin and orchestra, with Daniel Hope as soloist. The final work on this CD is Mirage. The Elegy and Mirage are also respectively known as the Fourth and Fifth Music Poems for orchestra. This is a thoroughly engaging selection of music from Warner Classics, played by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra with the participation of the City of Birmingham Youth Chorus in the second of the Three Mantras.
Foulds : Dynamic Triptych, Music-Pictures Iii & Orchestral Miniatures
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Foulds : 3 Mantras, Mirage, Lyra Celtica & Apotheosis by Sakari Oramo & City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
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