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British Overtures [Rumon Gamba, BBC National Orchestra of Wales] [Chandos: CHAN 10797]

4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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  • British Overtures [Rumon Gamba, BBC National Orchestra of Wales] [Chandos: CHAN 10797]
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Product details

  • Conductor: Rumon Gamba
  • Composer: Frederic Austin, Sir Frederic Hymen Cowen, Hnery Balfour Gardiner, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Sir Granville Bantock, et al.
  • Audio CD (6 Jan. 2014)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Chandos
  • ASIN: B00GK8P0JC
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 50,868 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
  • Sample this album Artist (Sample)
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Product Description

Product Description

Rumon Gamba and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales present a collection of rarely heard overtures from the British Isles. Among these is Sir Frederic Cowen's Overture to The Butterfly's Ball (1901), illustrating a popular children's poem by William Roscoe. All is vividly evoked by Cowen's pleasing melodic lines and delicate instrumental colour. It is easy to see why, in its day, the piece was a firm favourite, being played 26 times at the Proms between 1900 and 1940. Samuel Coleridge- Taylor achieved immediate success early in his career with his four-part cantata Scenes from The Song of Hiawatha. The Overture, composed in 1899, was intended as a prelude to the complete cycle but is now rarely heard in this context. Indeed, very little of the material in this Overture comes from the other Hiawatha pieces, the principal theme being the spiritual 'Nobody knows the trouble I see, Lord'. Perhaps better known as a leading baritone of his generation, Frederic Austin was also a composer of some achievement. In his tuneful and exciting concert overture The Sea Venturers, from 1936, he wanted to evoke 'something of the lives and character of English seamen who took peril and pleasure as it came'.

Review

This collection of overtures ranges from the 1880s to the 1930s, and none of the eight pieces included is at all well-known today. Even the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor work, the Overture to the Song of Hiawatha, was not actually part of his once hugely popular trilogy of Hiawatha cantatas, but a separate concert work with only the briefest of thematic links to the choral pieces. Given the half-century that separates the earliest work here, Stanford's Prelude to Oedipus Tyrannus, from the most recent, Frederic Austin's concert overture The Sea Venturers, the stylistic range is wide, and the sequence offers an interesting glimpse into a rarely visited area of British music around the turn of the 20th century. Stanford's upbeat, martial piece sounds almost laughably inappropriate in the context of Sophocles' great tragedy; Sullivan's Overture to Macbeth, and Granville Bantock's The Frogs, after Aristophanes' play seem far better tuned to their subjects. But as Rumon Gamba's nicely slick performances with BBCNOW show, these are all nicely proportioned pieces; if never especially memorable, they don't deserve the total neglect they've suffered for the last three-quarters of a century. --Guardian, 23/1/14

every one of the items is a delight and they constitute one surprise after another. IRR OUTSTANDING --IRR, Feb''14

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

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This release is a totally unexpected bonus for fans of British music. Although some of these pieces have been committed to disc before, everything here is given a fresh coat of paint and comes up splendidly under the direction of Rumon Gamba. After the highly unsatisfactory Marco Polo recording of 'The Butterfly's Ball' (Cowen: Symphony no. 3 Scandinavian & The Butterfly's Ball, Indian Rhapsody), this performance is a revelation, proving just what a fine composer Cowen was at his best and it is good to see that he is gradually emerging from the shadows of his contemporaries Sullivan, Parry, Stanford and Mackenzie. This last composer is represented here by his overture to J.M. Barrie's 'The Little Minister', a splendid example of Mackenzie writing in his characteristic Scottish mode.

Sullivan's 'Macbeth' has been very fortunate on disc, with several recordings to choose from, but this one has to be preferred now, with Gamba drawing the structure tautly together and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales on imperious form. Stanford's Prelude to 'Oedipus tyrannus' may seem a strange choice, as Vernon Handley previously recorded it for Chandos as part of their pioneering Stanford survey (Stanford: Symphony No. 4 in F major; Irish Rhapsody No. 6; Oedipus Rex Prelude), but comparison between the two interpretations finds Gamba much more vigorous, giving a far greater dramatic weight to what is one of the composer's most immediately appealing shorter orchestral works.
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I heartily agree with my fellow reviewer, Albion, this new release from Chandos really is a delight from beginning to end. The selection, which was chosen from a broad period of around sixty years (1880 to 1940), is a judicious one that balances variety with cohesiveness - all the works here are Romantic in idiom, for example, even Bantock's wittily-scored 'The Frogs' (after Aristophanes) of 1935; it certainly stands testament to the richness of British musical creativity within that period, one that is all the more remarkable perhaps for the fact that it confines itself to the Romantic sphere and doesn't incorporate post-Great War music that adopted the more modernist and experimental tones wafting across the channel from the continent.

I can honestly say that there isn't a single overture here that I haven't found a pleasure to listen to. Some of the composers were familiar to me, albeit not necessarily for the pieces recorded here, though only Stanford's noble prelude to 'Oedipus tyrannus' and Sullivan's 'Macbeth' occupy places in my collection - and as the other review states, the vital and sympathetic interpretations provided here by Gamba and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales make these the best versions currently available: in the case of the Stanford, perhaps only by a whisker (or two! Vernon Handley's is still a fine performance, I think), but in the 'Macbeth' Overture Gamba brings a degree of urgency to his reading that underlines the tragic drama behind the music, which I have listened to with renewed respect. Sir Alexander Mackenzie is represented by an overture to a play by J.M.
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What a splendid disc. The first thing to say is that the recording represents Chandos at its considerable best. The playing is excellent and the conducting lively and idiomatic. The music is a most welcome addition to the discography of late 19/early 20c British music. Some of it has been recorded before, but never as well done as this: the overture Sullivan wrote for Macbeth is a particular delight, but so is the Mackenzie, and then there's Coleridge-Taylor.... If you have any interest at all in this kind of music, you must get this disc.
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