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S. H. Smith
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Havergal Brian: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 14 [SACD Hybrid Multi-channel]
Havergal Brian: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 14 [SACD Hybrid Multi-channel]
Offered by Vocalion/Dutton Epoch Direct (Crazygreen8)
Price: £10.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two contrasting Havergal Brian symphonies, 24 July 2016
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These two symphonies by Havergal Brian present an interesting contrast between his earlier and later styles, the Second Symphony having been written on a very large scale in 1930-31, while the one-movement Symphony No. 14, written in 1959 when the composer had reached 82 years of age, and commercially recorded here for the first time, is more typical of Brian's Indian summer.

The Second Symphony was completed just four years after the mighty Gothic Symphony, and shares some of its predecessor's gargantuan proportions, demanding three sets of timpani, organ, two pianos and sixteen horns, as well as a large orchestra. It is in fact these huge requirements that have been such an impediment to performance. This work had to wait until 1973 for its premiere, and Brian never lived to hear it. The symphony growls into life in the lower strings and woodwind in their lowest registers. From that point, the first movement develops into an allegro assai, gathering strength as it goes. All the usual Brian hallmarks are present, including the sudden changes in tempo and dynamics, with orchestration ranging from solo woodwind or violin, through chamber groups to huge tutti climaxes. The second movement, following without a break, opens with a desolate-sounding cor anglais, returning to it at the close. In between, Brian leads the listener through a whole gamut of moods, using tempo and dynamics.

The scherzo third movement makes up for its brevity with orchestral colour and dynamic energy - all pounding timpani and blazing brass (augmented by the sixteen horns), with the two pianos thrown in for extra percussive effect. Despite all this, Brian keeps his forces under admirable restraint until he is ready to unleash their full fury. The finale is in effect a huge funeral march. Beginning in lower strings and woodwind, it rises to some towering climaxes, underscored at times by the organ, and informed by Wagner. Yet it is not all heavy brass and pounding timpani; there is one sustained passage for strings alone, warm in tone and moving in its lyricism, offering consolation in an otherwise bleak landscape. At length, we reach a coda which, unlike many of Brian's symphonies, fades into the ether.

Brian can be rather demanding - even intimidating - on the ear, because there is so much going on rhythmically, harmonically and dynamically, at any one moment, a feeling which is exacerbated in his shorter symphonies where there is less time to 'breathe' and take it all in - although the effort is well worth it. The Symphony No. 14, the second in a series of five terse one-movement works (Symphonies 13-17) is a case in point. Like the Second Symphony, it is written for a sizeable orchestra, although here, apart from the organ, the augmented forces of the earlier work are dispensed with. Naturally, at just twenty-one minutes duration, the language here is terser, and the tempo and mood changes more abrupt. All the symphonic elements are there, but condensed into the one movement span. And here, instead of fade-out, the coda 'tears up the earth by its roots' and ends in a blaze of power.

Martyn Brabbins, who has already recorded Brian Symphony Nos. 5, 10, 13, 19, 27, and 30 for Dutton, as well as conducting the celebrated performance of the Gothic Symphony at the 2011 Proms, is here at the helm of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. The recording is, as we have come to expect from Dutton, excellent.

Butterworth:Orchestral Works [BBC National Orchestra of Wales; James Rutherford, Kriss Russman] [BIS: BIS2195]
Butterworth:Orchestral Works [BBC National Orchestra of Wales; James Rutherford, Kriss Russman] [BIS: BIS2195]
Price: £12.40

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fitting Butterworth centenary disc, 1 July 2016
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This splendid disc, produced in time for the centenary of the Battle of the Somme in which Butterworth was killed, aged thirty-one, includes an intriguing mix of the familiar, the less familiar, and the previously unavailable. The familiar items are, of course, the Rhapsody 'A Shropshire Lad', the Two English Idylls, and the Idyll 'The Banks of Green Willow'. All the idylls make expressive use of actual English folk songs, while the rhapsody is folk-song inflected, although the themes are Butterworth own, the main one being taken from the melody he uses in his Housman song 'Loveliest of trees'. The full Shropshire Lad cycle, from which that song is taken, is also included, but in unfamiliar guise - orchestrated by Kriss Russman. The orchestration is effective in its sensuality, and close to the mood of the Housman texts and to Butterworth's interpretation of them.

Another 'first' is Russman's arrangement for string orchestra of Butterworth's Suite for String Quartette, a work which seems to have been written in or before 1910, and suggests a composer on the cusp of maturity, still touched by Germanic influence, yet developing ideas of his own, perhaps under the inspiration of English folksong for which he had developed a real enthusiasm as a collector. A recording of Butterworth's original quartet version can now be accessed on EM records (EMR CD036).

Before leaving for active service in France, Butterworth destroyed several manuscripts which he deemed inadequate, but left intact an incomplete orchestral Fantasia. On the present disc, Kriss Russman has used the ninety-odd bars of full score from Butterworth's own hand to create a performing version lasting about eight minutes He does this by developing the ideas in Butterworth's original score and combining them with references to one or two of his previously existing works (although Butterworth also makes at least one self-reference in this piece). The result is a highly attractive work of which the original composer would surely have approved.

What makes Russman's completion of the Fantasia even more fascinating is that it can be compared with a similar project undertaken by that doyen of 'elaborators', Martin Yates, the fruits of which have been recorded on the Dutton label (CDLX 7326). The two version run on parallel tracks for the first few minutes, but then diverge markedly in both orchestration and musical ideas. I agree with my fellow reviewer that at sixteen minutes Yates' version may well be rather longer than Butterworth himself would have envisaged, given the evidence of his surviving orchestral works, but Yates has, in my view, the more satisfying conclusion, making use of the final couple of bars from Butterworth's score with their haunting trumpet call - a kind of 'last post', as it were. We cannot know how, exactly, Butterworth would have completed the work had he lived, but we can be confident that in both these 'completions' we are hearing some original Butterworth sounds - his final musical thoughts - and we can enjoy these Russman and Yates efforts as artistic creations In their own right.

The remaining work on this disc is the song-cycle 'Love Blows as the Wind Blows', in Butterworth's own orchestration (the original was for string quartet accompaniment). All the vocal works here benefit from the accomplished renditions of the baritone James Rutherford. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales is conducted by Kriss Russman. This is a CD worth exploring not only for the 'novelties', but as a celebration of Butterworth's incomparable art. His sensitivity was a rare gift of the kind we are much in need of in our own turbulent times.

Heracleitus - The Bridge Quartet
Heracleitus - The Bridge Quartet
Price: £13.87

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A worthy commemoration of the Somme centenary, 1 July 2016
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The centenary of the Battle of the Somme has prompted the appearance of several new recordings of music by English composers who were deeply affected by the First World War, especially George Butterworth, who was killed on the Somme, and Ivor Gurney who was in the thick of things, and whose already delicate mental disposition was tipped over the edge as a result of his experiences in the trenches.

Of particular interest on this intriguing new EM Records disc is the premiere recording of Butterworth's Suite for String Quartet (or Quartette, as he himself spelled it). It is a work of five short movements that saw the young composer on the cusp of his first (and only) maturity, with a glance back to the Germanic influence that had for so long held English music in its grip, but also a nod towards the English folk song tradition in which Butterworth was then immersing himself, and which was to bear fruit in the Two English Idylls and the Idyll 'The Banks of Green WIllow', as well as more indirectly in the Rhapsody 'A Shropshire Lad'. From this same period comes the better-known Bredon Hill song-cycle, all but one song of which is recorded here (not sure why 'Oh, fair enough are sky and plain' was omitted). The final two songs from the cycle 'Love Blows as the Wind Blows' - W.E. Henley settings with string quartet accompaniment - are also included. 'Fill a glass with golden wine' is particularly exquisite, with an intimacy especially enhanced by the quartet version. Critics often dismiss this song as the cycle's Achilles heel, and Butterworth himself omitted it from his orchestral transcription of the piece. See what you think.

Ivor Gurney is represented by his Housman cycle 'Ludlow and Teme'. It is fascinating to compare this work with Butterworth's treatment of texts from the same Shropshire Lad collection, with 'On the Idle Hill of Summer' here available for direct comparison. What immediately strikes the listener is the wide range of mood in these songs. Contrast, for example, the urgent, restless quality of 'When smoke stood up from Ludlow' with the rapt, languid feel of 'Far in a western brookland', and the skittish 'Tis time, I think, by Wenlock Town' which so belies the wistful nature of the poem.

Other Gurney settings included on this disc are three of his most distinctive songs: 'The Cloths of Heaven', a lyrically beautiful interpretation of an equally beautiful Yeats poem; 'Severn Meadows', an exquisite setting of his own verse, composed while he was on active service in the trenches; and the splendidly solemn 'By a bierside', a setting of John Masefield. The final Gurney piece on this recording is the world premiere of 'Adagio', a slow movement from a late string quartet (1924), written just two years before Gurney's mental state precluded all further composition. It was among a sheaf of manuscripts being catalogued by Gerald Finzi after Gurney's death which Finzi himself adjudged to be 'useless'. I leave it to the listener to pronounce on that judgement.

During the latter years of the war, Peter Warlock (alias Philip Heseltine) found himself in Ireland (Achill Island, to be specific). Some have speculated that his motive was to avoid conscription. Be that as it may, his new surroundings inspired his musical imagination to such a degree that the songs he wrote there, and shortly thereafter, are generally considered to be among his finest. The two included here, 'Heracleitus' and 'Sweet Content', are both world premieres in this version with string quartet accompaniment.

On this disc, the Bridge Quartet is joined by Michael Dussek (piano) and Charles Daniels (tenor) whose rather soft tone seems well-suited to the sensibilities of these composers. An excellent recording, with substantial, high-quality liner notes to match. All texts are included.

Now Comes Beauty - BBC Concert Orchestra (2CD)
Now Comes Beauty - BBC Concert Orchestra (2CD)
Price: £16.61

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars English lyricism at its best, 1 July 2016
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This is a superb double CD of accessible, melodious orchestral music by a range of contemporary English composers commissioned on behalf of the English Music Festival which takes place annually in Oxfordshire. The recording company associated with the Festival, EM Records, is rapidly gaining an enviable reputation for producing recordings of works by lesser-known composers like Bailey, Baines, Holbrooke, and Hurlstone, along with lesser-known works by more familiar composers, including Bridge, Howells, Gurney, and Moeran.

The pair of discs here contain an intriguing mix of styles ranging from the 'modernist' (though still tonal) offerings of David Matthews and John Pickard, to the easy-listening light- or semi- light music style of Matthew Curtis, Paul Carr, Paul Lewis, and Philip Lane. If there is 'light' music here, however, it is of a superior quality. A searing beauty lies at the heart of Carr's 'Now Comes Beauty' and 'Suddenly It's Evening', while a sense of celebration permeates Curtis's 'A Festival Overture', Richard Blackford's 'Spirited', and Lane's 'Aubade Joyeuse'. Mystery and atmosphere dominate Christopher Wright's 'Legend', while Paul Lewis's 'Norfolk Suite' attempts, with some success, to capture the feel of place in a genre which English composers over the years seem to have made their own.

John Pickard's impressive 'Binyon Songs' is a genuine cycle in which all five items explore the idea of nature's transience and man's transient place within it. 'The Burning of the Leaves' is the most substantial of the songs, and the others were added subsequently. All are sung superbly by Roderick Williams whose mellow baritone voice seems perfectly suited to the nature and mood of the texts Pickard has chosen to set.

The most substantial work here is David Owen Norris's Piano Concerto. Sandwiched between two sprightly allegro movements, the heart of the piece is surely the central andante serioso where the spirit of Beethoven at his most serene is never far distant. In the quicker movements the piano sparkles and rejoices in its interplay with the orchestra. Norris himself is the soloist on this disc. Who better?

Much of the music on these CDs is of the kind that will have listener humming the melodies for days afterwards. The BBC Concert Orchestra is in the hands of veteran conductor Owain Arwel Hughes, with Gavin Sutherland thrown in for good measure. Rupert Marshall-Luck is the violin soloist in Carr's 'Suddenly It's Evening'. The substantial liner notes are attractively presented, and include full texts of the Binyon poems. Highly recommended.

Western Wind: Mass By John Taverner & Court by Taverner Choir & Players (2016-05-04)
Western Wind: Mass By John Taverner & Court by Taverner Choir & Players (2016-05-04)

5.0 out of 5 stars The glories of Tudor polyphony - Taverner's Western Wind mass, 1 Jun. 2016
This Avie recording features John Taverner's Western Wind mass, interspersed with secular songs and instrumental music by some of his near-contemporaries, including William Cornysh, Hugh Ashton, Henry VIII (no mean composer), and, of course, dear old Anon, thereby providing the listener with a fascinating cross-section of musical life in England at that time.

Taverner's mass holds the distinction of being the first one we know of whose 'cantus firmus' (or 'fixed melody') is based on a secular song, 'Western (or Westron) Wind'. The song itself is sung at the end of the disc, following which its tune is combined with Taverner's version (which may have originated as the counter melody to the sung tune) in an instrumental rendition. The idea of a Western Wind mass soon caught on, prompting Christopher Tye and John Sheppard to produce their own versions (all three can be heard on Gimmell CDGIM 027). In Taverner's version the melody is heard nine times in each of the four movements (Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus), forming, in effect, a set of 36 variations. Other music by Taverner on the disc includes examples of his various 'responses' for Christian feast days in which plainchant alternates with Taverner's own composition.

The Taverner Choir and Players are conducted on this recording by Andrew Parrott, a notable early music scholar, who has also supplied the informative liner notes. Full texts of the mass and songs are included. Aficionados of the music of this period are bound to love the programme on offer here, but it also provides an ideal introduction for the uninitiated, and may well whet their appetite for more.

Holst: Hymns From The Rig Veda / Two Eastern Pictures / Hymn to Dionysus
Holst: Hymns From The Rig Veda / Two Eastern Pictures / Hymn to Dionysus
Offered by musicMagpie
Price: £11.38

5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome reissue of Holst's Hymns for the Rig Veda, 31 May 2016
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The re-issue of this Unicorn recording (originally released in LP format in 1985) is long overdue, as it is the only one to my knowledge which features examples from all four groups of Holst's Rig Veda hymns (1908-12), and not simply from the widely-known third group only. It is well-known that in the first decade of the twentieth century Holst passed through a Sanskrit phase (even teaching himself the language) which produced not only the hymns recorded here, but the operas Sita (1900-06) and Savitri (1908), the Two Eastern Pictures (c. 1911) included here, the choral ode The Cloud Messenger (1913), and the symphonic poem Indra (1903). We should remember that at this point Holst had yet to discover the distinctive voice of his maturity, but these hymns are exquisite, demonstrating an both admirable sensitivity to the nuances of the texts set, and a confident handling of the orchestra.

Of the first group, the Battle Hymn is suitably martial in tone, with a thrilling concluding chant, 'Indra and Maruts fight for us!' while 'To the Unknown God, slow and dignified, and using Holst's characteristic measured 'tread', has an aura of mystery about it. The second group, for women's chorus, begins with the Hymn to Varuna (God of the Waters), characterised by a chilly remoteness that seems to presage Uranus. After the water comes the fire (Agni), a hymn full of rhythmic vitality, imaginatively scored and reminiscent of The Perfect Fool, perhaps. The Funeral Chant returns us to the mood of the first hymn in the set, with its sense of floating through space.

The third group, for women's chorus and solo harp (Osian Ellis), begins in similar vein with Hymn to the Dawn (Holst was a past master at creating remoteness of atmosphere in music, with its sense of infinite distance). Hymn to the Waters, by contrast, has a flitting lightness of touch with a filigree accompaniment from the harp. Hymn to Vena (described as the sun rising through the mist) begins slowly in a low register, but gains in strength and tempo as the sun rises higher. The final hymn in this set is a brisk invocation to the god of travellers for journeying mercies.

The two hymns from the fourth group are scored for male chorus and orchestra. Hymn to Soma (the juice of a plant with narcotic powers) is in a sturdy march tempo, while Hymn to Manas is an invocation to the spirits on behalf of a dying man which adopts a muted, static quality throughout and fades into silence.

The two Eastern Pictures for women's chorus and harp, both to texts by Kalidasa, are entitled 'Spring' and 'Summer' respectively. The first is delightfully fresh and light-footed, while the other, by contrast, has a wonderfully drowsy, soporific quality, somewhat akin in mood to Debussy's L'Apres Midi d'un Faun.

The only work here which has no Eastern connection at all is the Hymn to Dionysus (1913) which takes as its text an extract from Euripides' play 'The Bacchae'. It opens with dignified restraint, but gradually gathers momentum until, true to the play itself, the listener is caught up in the wild, hypnotic orgy of the Bacchanals. There are moments of impressionism in this piece of which Debussy would have been proud.

The RCM Chamber Choir and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra are conducted on this recording by the ever-dependable David Willcocks who together produce a splendid all-round performance. Listeners may find that they need to turn up the volume in order to accommodate the very quiet passages and also appreciate to the full the more dynamic ones.

Return to Old Ireland - Music of Mary McAuliffe by Mary McAuliffe (2015-05-04)
Return to Old Ireland - Music of Mary McAuliffe by Mary McAuliffe (2015-05-04)

4.0 out of 5 stars Mary McAuliffe - an Irish composer who deserves to be more widely-known., 30 May 2016
Mary McAuliffe is a contemporary Irish composer, resident in America, and the title of this CD, 'Return to Old Ireland', apart from its being the title of one of the works recorded, is an apt one, as the music is clearly redolent of the composer's Irish roots, and her literary sources and subject matter are also Irish. The disc opens with a vibrant rendition of the 'Gloria' for chorus and orchestra in which a strong sense of rhythm and melody combine to provide the listener with an uplifting experience.

The next piece, 'Leaving', for which McAuliffe provides her own text, concerns the Irish famine of the mid-nineteenth century, and especially the emigration to America of many of its victims to escape starvation. It is written for tenor, narrator, choir, and chamber forces. The music tends to be rather one-paced, but becomes more affirmative towards the close.

'Dawn Song' is a setting of an early Yeats poem for tenor and piano which has an overtly Celtic character, as does the following short piece, 'The Drifter' for violin and piano. McAuliffe's setting of 'The Salley Gardens (Yeats again) is suitably folksy, and bears comparison with the more celebrated settings by Gurney and Warlock, but in my view the wordless 'ah-ah' which envelops the piece does not really enhance it (the same can be said for the use of the same technique in 'Dawn Song'). I did learn from the composer's note, however, that 'Salley' is derived from a Gaelic word meaning 'willow' - so the poet meets his love in the willow gardens.

'Frolics' is a short piece for piano solo, the mood of which is perfectly reflected in the title. The following item is a setting for tenor of Yeats's celebrated poem 'When you are old', but perhaps this is not really the best of McAuliffe. There is more unnecessary 'ah-ah-ing' between stanzas, and a repetition of certain words which seems somewhat arbitrary. But the main problem lies in setting this text at all. The poem is a very fine one, and is more than capable of standing on its own merit. In poetry of this quality it is hard to see how music can enhance the text. It is for this reason that Elgar, along with many other composers, chose to set minor poets, in the main, since 'the major poets require no help from me'.

The final piece on the disc is the substantial 'Return to Old Ireland' for chorus, organ and chamber forces, setting texts by Whitman, Yeats, and the composer herself (not sure, though, whether setting one's own words alongside the 'greats' is the wisest policy). In a sense, this work is a companion piece to 'Leaving' in that it deals with Irish emigration to America and a hoped-for eventual repatriation. Naturally, the feel of the piece is wholly Irish, enhanced in places by the use of the Irish drum (bodhran), and by the fact that the final movement takes the form of a jig. There is certainly some variety of rhythm and tempo, and a sense of unbridled celebration in the finale. The work was recorded live, and the warmth of applause at the end bore testimony to the audience's wholehearted appreciation.

McAuliffe's oeuvre is eminently approachable - music written from the heart to the heart. Lovers of Irish art and culture should enjoy this disc.

Heirs And Rebels [Robert Irwin; Stuart Robertson; Edgar Coyle; Black Dyke Mills Band; BBC Chorus; Band of HM Grenadier Guards] [Albion Records: ALBCD027]
Heirs And Rebels [Robert Irwin; Stuart Robertson; Edgar Coyle; Black Dyke Mills Band; BBC Chorus; Band of HM Grenadier Guards] [Albion Records: ALBCD027]
Price: £17.48

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vaughan WIlliams and Holst: Heirs and Rebels, 30 May 2016
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Most of the works of Vaughan Williams and Holst presented here have been recorded many times before. The interest and value of these particular performances lie in the quality of the various artists all re-emerging from a bygone era. The recordings here range from 1922 to 1946, and include Peter Dawson's rendition of RVW's 'Silent Noon' and Holst's 'Lovely Kind and Kindly Loving', an early song not often heard these days. Then we have Robert Irwin (baritone) and Stuart Robertson (tenor) singing from 'Songs of Travel', all with the incomparable Gerald Moore accompanying. Among the choral compositions on offer are RVW's 'For all the Saints' (Sine Nomine) sung by St. George's Chapel Choir conducted by Rev. E.H. Fellowes ( a notable 'bete noir' of Peter Warlock), and Holst's 'This have I done for my True Love' ('Tomorrow shall be my Dancing Day'), one of his finest choral songs. The Band of HM Life Guards performs RVW's English Folk Song Suite and Holst's First Suite for Military Band, while the Black Dyke Mills Band presents the latter composer's 'Moorside Suite' in a 1928 recording made just after the band had won the National Brass Band Festival championship performing this very work which had been commissioned as a test piece for the occasion. Another gem is a 1930 performance of Holst's 'Marching Song' by the Hastings Municipal Orchestra conducted by Julius Harrison (perhaps better-known today for composing his beautiful 'Bredon Hill' for Violin and Orchestra - available on Dutton CDLX 7174).

The programme on this disc is especially arranged to draw attention to the close working relationship of the two composers. As is well-known, Vaughan Williams and Holst were not only firm friends, but held numerous 'field days' when they would critically assess one another's work in progress. They were both inspired by English folksong (Holst's 'Somerset Rhapsody' bears comparison with RVW's Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1) and many of the same literary sources - notably Walt Whitman - even setting one or two of the same texts (RVW's 'Towards the Unknown Region', for example, was written in friendly competition with Holst). Thus, on this CD we can compare the composers' respective handling of different genres, including art song, chorus, brass or military band, and orchestra. The contribution of each composer is rounded off with a rendition of the Wassail Song, and it is fascinating to see how each of them approaches the problem of setting the text. The result is two very distinctive compositions.

Given the vintage of these recordings, the sound quality is remarkable, thanks in no small measure to Pete Reynolds' remastering of the original 78s. Apart from the 1928 recording of the 'Moorside Suite', there is no background 'hiss', and the diction of the soloists in the songs is crystal clear. No RVW or Holst aficionado will want to be without this disc. Not only are the performances first class, but the programme provides eloquent testimony to the history of the recording of English music in the first half of the twentieth century.

George Butterworth Memorial Volume
George Butterworth Memorial Volume
by Wayne Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.00

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 1997] better serves that purpose, 21 May 2016
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As is well-known to all lovers of English music, George Butterworth was an outstanding composer whose promise was tragically cut short by a sniper's bullet on the Somme in 1916. He is still remembered today for his exquisite orchestral rhapsodies (A Shropshire Lad, The Banks of Green Willow, and the two English Idylls), and, of course, for his Housman song cycles. What is perhaps less well-known is that his grieving father, Alexander Kaye Butterworth, issued a memorial volume to his son in 1918 which was intended for private consumption, and so was never readily available to the general public. Now, thanks to a chance meeting with Hugh Butterworth, a cousin of George by his father's second marriage, Wayne Smith has been given permission to edit and reissue this priceless volume just in time for the centenary of George's death.

The memorial volume is not an official biography of Butterworth (Michael Barlow's 'Whom the Gods Love' [Toccata Press, 1997] better serves that purpose, and also discusses the music), but a compendium of memoirs, concert reviews, and diary extracts and letters from Butterworth's own hand. There is also a reminiscence by Hugh Butterworth, an appreciation by Vaughan Williams, and a memoir by R.O. Morris, not to mention a number of rare and previously unpublished photographs. In many ways what we have here is equally as good as a biography, since we have the raw material at our disposal which, taken as a whole, provides a valuable insight into the man and his times. He comes across as one having undoubted courage, both on and off the battlefield, who knew his own mind, was aware of his unique gifts, and was blessed with a great generosity of spirit.

I would recommend all lovers of Butterworth's music to acquire a copy of this book. Reading it will deepen one's understanding and appreciation of the music itself, and will sit as a worthy companion alongside the recent issue by Dutton (CDLX 7326) of Butterworth's final and, until this year, unheard piece, the orchestral Fantasia with its poignant 'last post' trumpet call at the close.

William Wordsworth Symphony No.1 in F minor Op.23 & Symphony No.5 in A minor Op.68
William Wordsworth Symphony No.1 in F minor Op.23 & Symphony No.5 in A minor Op.68
Price: £9.37

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two impressive Wordsworth symphonies, 21 May 2016
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William Wordsworth (1908-88) - a distant descendant of Christopher Wordsworth, brother of the famous poet - is one of Britain's many forgotten composers. He is rarely, if ever heard in the concert hall, and his music today is represented by a handful of recordings, produced in the main by Lyrita. He tended to write in the traditional genres, including string quartets and symphonies, two of the latter on offer here. The present recording of Symphonies 1 & 5 (along with the Overture 'Conflict') thus complements Lyrita's earlier recording of Symphonies 2 & 3 (SRCD 207).

The title of Wordsworth's Overture 'Conflict' is suitably reflected in the tempestuousness of the music, full of dissonance, brisk fanfares and irregular rhythms. It is scored for large orchestra, of which the battery of percussion instruments plays a significant role.

The Symphony No. 1 (1944) tends to look towards Europe for its key musical influences (Sibelius and Bartok, in particular), rather than to Britain, unless one can include Wordsworth's former teacher Donald Tovey. A predominantly robust and 'brassy' opening movement gives way to a haunting adagio in which the strings are at their most lyrical. The brief scherzo, by contrast, plunges us into the world of what Paul Conway labels 'the grotesque', and is marked by a general thematic waywardness. Brass and woodwind are very much to the fore here. The finale begins with a slow, brooding introduction, but before long the driving rhythms encountered in the first movement return, propelling the work to a decisive and powerful conclusion.

The Symphony No. 5 (1960) falls into three movements. The opening andante maestoso begins in somewhat muted fashion with solo woodwind weaving sinuous thematic material over a soft bed of strings. Soon the strings themselves assume dominance as the music becomes more passionate and direct. The listener feels caught up on its rise and fall, as on an ocean swell. The frequent instrumental solos and light scoring give a chamber feel to much of this movement which, in my view, is the most effective of the three.

The brief allegro central movement is skittish and colourful, providing some necessary contrast with the predominantly more serious mood of the surrounding movements. Perhaps the spirit of Malcolm Arnold at his most ebullient is not too far distant. The final movement opens with sombre strings, leading to a triumphant outburst in the brass, at which point the tempo quickens and the music becomes more animated, with fanfare figures and impassioned comment from the strings. The conclusion comes amid a riot of scintillating brass and pounding percussion.

The recordings here were made in the late 60s and into the 70s by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra under James Loughran (Overture and Symphony No. 1) and Stewart Robertson (Symphony No. 5). Most of Wordsworth's output still awaits concert performance (as opposed to studio broadcasts). It is to be hoped that Lyrita's efforts to promote this composer's work will help arouse wider interest. Although concentrated listening is required, these works are by no means inaccessible.

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