Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop All Amazon Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now DIYED Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Oasis Listen with Prime Learn more Shop Men's Shop Women's
Customer Review

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars LAST NIGHT OF THE POMS, 28 Dec. 2006
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Elgar: The Spirit of England; Parry: Chivalry; Gurney: War Elegy (Audio CD)
90 years after the events of WW1 is probably rather a good time to choose for dusting off some of the music of the era. None of the music here, even by Parry and Elgar, is overly familiar, and some of it must be known to very few indeed. The best piece is also the best-known piece, Elgar's Spirit of England, but if that suggests something akin to Land of Hope and Glory or the Last Night of the Proms the reality is otherwise. There is a certain amount of stiff-upper-lippery in Binyon's poems but beneath it the song is really of war and the pity of war, as surely as in Wilfred Owen. Parry's setting of Bridges' The Chivalry of the Sea, in memory of the dead of the Battle of Jutland, is a little, well, breezy I suppose; but the three instrumental numbers by minor composers are nothing of the sort, and two of them at least strike me as being real finds. The other strikes a quietly ironic note - Rupert Brooke himself, ultra-English elegist of WW1, receives a musical elegy of his own in which his death on a French hospital ship is commemorated by an Australian.

You may experience a semi-problem in setting the volume to play this disc at. In general you will need a high setting to obtain a good tone in the quiet sections, and you may find that uncomfortably high in Elgar's final climax. I strongly suspect that the difficulty is of Elgar's making rather than of the recording technicians, as I know the issue well from my set of Rattle's Gerontius. Armed with a full chorus and orchestra Elgar could probably make more noise than any other classical composer, and in Gerontius the volume-level I need for most of the work blasts me out of the room at Praise to the Holiest. I find something similar here, but I have no complaint with the engineering, which is from this very year 2006. Elgar sets three poems by Binyon, the last and best being the familiar For the Fallen. Despite the general title, and despite the defiant 'optimism' of the first poem, the prevalent tone is one of profound unease. The deeply Catholic Elgar was never comfortable with himself in the way the pagan Strauss was with himself, and I catch the authentic tone of doubt, and of hope fighting despair, eloquently from this account.

Parry's The Chivalry of the Sea dates from 1916, and in musical terms it is very much Parry as I know him, the professionalism total but the inspiration second-order. Nevertheless it's one of the better works that I know from him and a welcome addition to my library. I was interested to learn from the liner that Parry was out of sympathy with the oratorio tradition. That tradition must indeed have had poor Handel turning in his grave, but I wonder in that case how Parry may have reacted to the merciless panning that his own oratorios Job and Judith got from Shaw. The other three works, all purely instrumental, are fascinating. Frederick Septimus Kelly's elegy on Brooke has yet to make a deep impression on me, but it is well worth having. Lilian Elkington's Out of the Mist is another matter entirely. The score of this 8-minute tone-poem, from 1921, was discovered fortuitously and I don't know whether it is yet in print. In my own opinion it deserves that and more, and it should be part of the standard concert repertory, being full of character, melody and real power. Gurney's War Elegy made a big impression on me too. I had known Gurney previously only for setting Housman, which is a sin I find hard to forgive in any composer. In terms of war poetry Housman's lines

Now when the flame they watch not towers

Above the land they trod,

Lads, we'll remember friends of ours

Who shared the work with God.

To skies that knit their heart-strings right,

To fields that bred them brave,

The saviours come not home tonight:

Themselves they could not save.

are out of Binyon's league, but they do not go to music, nor does anything by Housman. However Gurney makes noble amends here, although it seems that the restoration of his score was a scholarly task to rank with editing the text of Aeschylus.

The performances seem admirable to me. This is apparently the first recording of the Elgar work that gives it as he originally intended in the uneconomic version using two soloists. I was familiar with Susan Gritton from elsewhere, and I am thoroughly pleased to make the acquaintance of the tenor Andrew Kennedy who makes a worthy partner. The BBC SO and chorus seem to me excellent too, however difficult it may have been to accommodate these large forces in a recording.

Texts of the poems are provided, and the liner-notes by John Norris and Lewis Foreman are informative and absolutely fascinating. This is the first Dutton Digital issue that has come my way, and I hope there will be many more to this outstanding standard of imagination and enterprise.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
Name:
Badge:
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
 
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in
  [Cancel]

Comments

Track comments by e-mail
Tracked by 1 customer

Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 13 Nov 2014 12:52:20 GMT
Habakkuk says:
George Butterworth's setting for voice and piano of eleven poems from Housman's 'A Shropshire Lad' is considered by many to be a minor masterpiece. There was an interesting performance at the 2014 Proms of the first six songs, marvellously delivered by baritone Roderick Williams in a newly orchestrated version. As you say, David, Housman's war poetry may well be 'out of Binyon's league', but your somewhat sweeping assertion that 'In terms of war poetry Housman's lines [...] do not go to music, nor does anything by Housman' does not, IMHO, stand easily beside the fact that 'of those that survive, [Butterworth's] works based on A. E. Housman's collection of poems 'A Shropshire Lad' are among the best known. Many English composers of Butterworth's time set Housman's poetry, including Ralph Vaughan Williams... each of the [two] published sets is often performed separately and recorded regularly - in fact, they can be said to be among the most frequently performed English art songs.' (from the Wikipedia entry on Butterworth)

In reply to an earlier post on 13 Nov 2014 16:52:22 GMT
DAVID BRYSON says:
Well, you seem to be pointing out that my ideas of Housman's suitability for musical setting are not everybody's ideas of the matter. Nothing surprising about that surely? Did you know that Vaughan Williams played some of his settings to Housman and the latter was not at all pleased? However I'm not looking for backing for what I think. I love Housman and I adore music, but separately please, not together.
‹ Previous 1 Next ›

Review Details

Item

Reviewer

DAVID BRYSON
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   

Location: Glossop Derbyshire England

Top Reviewer Ranking: 322