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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dutton surpass themselves, 17 Nov 2009
Steve (Leeds) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Stanley Bate Symphony No 3; Erik Chisholm Pictures from Dante; Arnell Robert Flaherty (Audio CD)
For some years now the Dutton label has been releasing new recordings of British classical music otherwise ignored by the record industry. Certainly the large companies such as EMI and Decca (Universal) long ago gave up recording the likes of Rawsthorne, Alwyn, Bantock et al. Even Delius rarely gets a look in. Thankfully there are a number of independents such as Hyperion, Chandos and Dutton (and, to be fair, Naxos) which have far surpassed the multinationals in importance for anyone with an interest in British music.

This CD brings together works by three composers who have largely been overlooked by the British music establishment. And they are all fine works; it is shocking that they have been ignored for so long.

The Third Symphony of Stanley Bate was written in 1940. The composer, like a surprising number of others, found himself in the United States (trying to get to Australia with his wife initially). The influence of the war in Europe is evident from the opening of the symphony; there is a good deal of anger expressed. There are hints of Vaughan Williams (one of Bate's teachers), and, I think, Shostakovich. The short middle movement is relatively peaceful but the final third movement brings the work back to a violent end. This is, however, all very listenable music. The symphony lasts about thirty minutes and doesn't outstay its time at all. Bate has a style very much his own, with vivid orchestration, despite the inevitable influences of others. I have already been back to replay this work.

The second composer featured is Richard Arnell. The Dutton label has served him particularly well, recording all the symphonies and many other orchestral works. The works here are 'Prelude "Black Mountain"' and 'Robert Flaherty - Impression'. Flaherty was an American film director Arnell knew and was friends with. It is tempting to read meaning into this musical 'impression' inspired by Flaherty, but I think it's best to just listen to the music, which is somewhat rhapsodic in style and, again, tonal (but never banal). If you like any of the Arnell symphonies, you'll like this.

The final piece is by Erik Chisolm who, I have to admit, I hadn't come across before. The work is entitled 'Pictures from Dante (after Dore)): Inferno and Paradisio'. According to the (excellent) sleeve notes, this work has only been performed three times since its completion in 1948. The title refers to Dante's 'Divine Comedy' , the first and third parts being 'Inferno' and 'Paradisio'. The great engraver Gustav Dore published a set of illustrations for an edition of the Divine Comedy. However, the work by Chisolm must surely have equally been influenced by the recent world war (the work has its roots in an earlier work written during the war). The first part is loud, mechanistic, fiery - pretty much Hell. The second gradually moves to a moving and peaceful end; the orchestration is highly original, with ostinato woodwind and strings giving the impression of rising (to Heaven?), and the very end of the piece not resolving on the chord you expect, but, with celeste and piano, ultimately coming to rest on a high violin note. It is a wonderful piece of writing.

Three extraordinary, neglected pieces.

All are recorded in the usual exemplary Dutton fashion, with clarity but also a very wide frequency and dynamic range, and a sense of depth to the sound (recorded in Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow, not the easiest of acoustics).

To round things off, there are substantial sleeve notes by Lewis Foreman, illustrations, and a fine front cover. (Dutton's Art Department are rightly fond of old railway posters!)

Dutton should be proud of this release, which puts the large record companies to shame in their neglect of British music.

Highly recommended.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't miss this one!, 22 Nov 2009
Jeffrey Davis "jmd555555" (Sussex UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Stanley Bate Symphony No 3; Erik Chisholm Pictures from Dante; Arnell Robert Flaherty (Audio CD)
This has to be one of the best Dutton releases of all time. Having been bowled over by Stanley Bate's Viola Concerto on an earlier Dutton release I eagerly awaited the possibility of them issuing his Symphony No 3, which I had heard was his masterpiece - and here it is! Bate's Symphony No 3 is a troubled, stormy, lyrical work - very much of its time (1940). I think that the influence of Bate's teacher Vaughan Williams is more assimilated than in the wonderful Viola Concerto (actually a later work), but it has a great VW type second subject in the first movement which once heard, stays in the mind long afterwards (like the big tune in the first movement of Vaughan Williams's later 6th Symphony). This is a searching and poetic score and I am not surprised that it made a great impression when it was first performed in the 1950s. Oddly enough the opening of the last movement reminded me momentarily of the contemporary Japanese composer Yoshimatsu. Sadly Bate suffered critical rejection, especially it seems by the BBC, and he died prematurely in 1959. Now, I hope that Dutton will go on to record Bates' Fourth Symphony of 1955.

The CD is a must buy for all British music fans for the Bate alone but its companions on disc are also fine scores. Richard Arnell's 'Prelude, Black Mountain' is an epic score in under three minutes! Arnell was just as undeservedly neglected as Bate and his symphonies 3-5 on Dutton were great discoveries for me.

Finally Scottish composer Erik Chisholm's 'Pictures from Dante' (after Dore's Illustrations to 'The Divine Comedy') plunge us headlong into the nightmare world of Dante's 'Inferno'. The despairing and catastrophic opening of the work is wonderfully intimidating (even more so than the opening of Khachaturian's Second Symphony 'The Bell'). As with the Bate work, great use is made of the orchestral piano. I had greatly enjoyed an earlier Dutton release of Chisholm's 'Ossian' Symphony No 2 but this is a greater work - I can't stop playing the opening, which is based on the Dore illustration of Dante and his spirit guide Virgil, peering into the depths of Hell from a precarious ledge - fortunately I have a copy of the illustrations which adds to my enjoyment of this piece. Although a much louder work Chisholm's 'Dante Pictures' conveys much the same kind of relentlessly dark eloquence as Miaskovsky's tone poem 'Silence', but the Chisholm work offers the contrast of its very moving second section 'Paradiso' - where a noble theme leads us into a most poetic movement - these are great works and all credit to Dutton, The Royal Scottish National Orchestra and its fine conductor Martin Yates as well as to Lewis Foreman for initiating the project and providing great accompanying notes.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars stanley bate symphony no 3 etc, 6 April 2010
David Layland - See all my reviews
This review is from: Stanley Bate Symphony No 3; Erik Chisholm Pictures from Dante; Arnell Robert Flaherty (Audio CD)
This is a superb disc from start to finish. I can only agree with everything in the previous excellent and comprehensive reviews.
Full marks must go to Dutton for the work they are doing with British music.
I can't wait to discover more!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost, 28 July 2012
Nobody "Alan Boyes" (Newcastle, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Stanley Bate Symphony No 3; Erik Chisholm Pictures from Dante; Arnell Robert Flaherty (Audio CD)
A couple of years ago I purchased a Dorian recording of Villa-Lobos' fourth Symphony, coupled with his steamy tone poem "Amazonas". The recording boasted state of the art engineering but I was disappointed. No detail was lost but the sound was flat and harsh: a bit clinical with a lack of bass umph. I turned to CPO for salvation with the symphony: now here is a woefully neglected symphonist (you don't have to be anglo saxon/germanic composer with a penchant for thematic double entry bookkeeping to write a good one). "Amazonas" I replaced with a less well recorded but more atmospheric Marco Polo recording.

What was the point of me telling you all that? Firstly I discovered a fine and neglected symphonist from further south than Vienna (Alfredo Casella's Third or those by Braga Santos) and secondly the finest recording methods don't always deliver results. That's how I feel listening to this Dutton recording where the sound is clear but unsympathetic to the orchestra, rather treble biased with little bass or any spacious sound stage. I was disappointed with the Arnell Symphonies, though the Third I still was able to appreciate, but this was down as much to the recording a than the pieces themselves It's such a pity because all involved had the very noblest intentions.

Here the same has happened. It's particularly true for Bate's passionate but tautly structured Third Symphony. The sound was so flat and unfocussed - particularly unflattering to the brass. What we have is a fine three movement symphony that doesn't out stay its welcome. Bate's teacher, Vaughan Williams, can be heard alongside an undoubted Shostakovich influence, particularly inth emiddle slow movement flute and high string sections. If the work wasn't dated 1940 I'd swear he was absorbing the "Leningrad" symphony: Arnell certainly did in his "Third". The finale's piano part echoes Martinu's war symphonies well before they happened so hats of to Bate for getting there first, though again, Shostakovich, in the guise of his Fifth comes to mind too. The symphony starts with a disconcertingly blaze introduction on bassoons but proceeds with passion and poetry. The finale has a sense of forward driven urgency that becomes more complex before settling on an emphatic close that isn't quite so convincing as what preceded.

It's a cruelly neglected work and quite a sobering thought that the BBC and William Glock were such imposing censors that they almost out did Stalinist Russia from freezing out a whole musical style. Indeed the Soviets banned modernism and the BBC banned the orthodox and conventional. In the USSR composer were sent to the Gulag whereas in Britain frozen out composers sometimes were driven to take their own lives. Despite that; we listen to comparable works by Walton, Vaughan Williams, Martinu and Shostakovich because they are better. Vaughan Willimas' Fourth, Sixth, Walton's First, Martinu's Double Concerto and any Shostakovich wartime symphony cast a very long shadow so it's best not to compare Bate's symphony with them: it can stand on its own two feet even if it can't pretend to be on their level.

Now to Arnell: another neglected composer. Dutton have done him proud in recording his symphonies but I found them less than gripping. I was very pleasantly surprised by these two works, however, the short and impressionistic tone poem, "Black Mountain" is a slight work but colourfully evokes the home of film maker, Robert Flaherty. His other work, "Robert Flaherty Impression", despite the unflattering recording, I liked very much. It last well over twenty minutes and sounds like an American work. It is a portait of an American in his home land. The work sounds like a mix of open air Copland and more recent composers such as John Adams in lyrical vein with a hint of Jennfier Higdon and Michael Daugherty.I'm not a great fan of either of the latter as they represent a backward looking, safe, and over performed group of identikit composers in America: it's funny how the "Land of the Free" produces so many polished but characterless music - Stalin would have been proud!

Arnell's tone portrait, however, is rather beguiling and it manages to combine the open harmonies of rural America with dark undercurrents, often jarring side by side. There's a lot beneath the surface with this work but these theeatrical touches leave me in no doubt about the quality of Arnell's music. I sense dramatic forms would have suited him better than the concert hall. He would have been well suited to producing more film scores: these two are tributes to a film maker. Given its unpromising title and lack of programme I found this work to be a real gem. Like the symphonies the thematic material isn't very memorable but the scene painting and canny feel for subtle dramatic twists is a revelation.

The Chisholm "Pictures from Dante" do sound a bit like a film score too but, having said that, sound like no one else. That in itself is a great credit to him. The two movements "Inferno" and "Paradisio" balance each other well. here the harsh sound to the brass onthe recording works in the music's favour at the dramatic opening. it's hard to follow that opening; a bit like "Saving Private Ryan" really.

Like the other pieces, it would be great to hear them played somewhere other than the Henry Wood Hall in Glasgow, which does its best to kill them.I can't blame the committed performances, the conductor or Dutton: they've courageously championed cruelly neglected composers. None of them are great masters but all deserve to be heard and to have this kind of attention lavished on them once in a while.

I guess its asking a lot but it would be great if, say, Hyperion or Chandos could give these fine works another run, with spacious sound in more sympathetic surroundings. Despite my moans about the recording I can recommend this recording and it certainly won't put me off exploring the music of these three composers.

To return to my earlier ramble: check out Villa-Lobos's symphonies; they're jam packed with memorable material and, yes they do add up no matter how dense they get. Even if they didn't, when you write such good tunes and have such orchestral flair you can get away with a lot. For those of you, like myself, who long to find undiscovered but accomplished symphonists these are exciting times - there are many out there even if they don't get aired in our concert halls. The choice is there on disc and download and hurrah to the internet for providing a network that opens these horizons up.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thanks again, Dutton!, 24 Feb 2011
This review is from: Stanley Bate Symphony No 3; Erik Chisholm Pictures from Dante; Arnell Robert Flaherty (Audio CD)
Once again the Dutton record company has come up with a disc that allows us to hear music which is unlikely to be performed in the concert hall any time soon. To quote Armando Iannuci in an edition of "The Gramophone" in 2008, 'Britain leads the world in neglected composers'; how true this is - and Stanley Bate must be one of the most neglected of them all. His 3rd Symphony is a very, very fine piece. Anyone who cares about British symphonic music should rush out and acquire this recording immediately, for this symphony will reward repeated hearings. True, the influence of Vaughan Williams is very evident, especially in the marvellous and memorable second subject of the first movement, but this does not detract in any way from the symphony's powerful impact. Whilst the Arnell and Chisholm pieces which accompany the symphony are excellent, I rather regret that Dutton didn't make this an all-Bate programme, completing the disc with the 2nd Symphony, perhaps - or a concerto.
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