I don't think that I've ever seen a boxed set devoted to the music of Sir Arthur Bliss before and this itself is a cause for celebration. Bliss may not have been one of the very greatest 20th century British composers, but I often find myself returning to his music - my admiration for which continues to grow. This set is a wonderful collection, thoughtfully compiled by Richard Abram. The box itself is beautifully designed using the striking cover art from Charles Groves's great LP of 'A Colour Symphony' and this (the greatest performance of this fine work) is included in the set as is Groves's recording of the film music for 'Things to Come'(the first film score to become well-known independently of the movie) as well as the very enjoyable music from the film 'Christopher Columbus'. Although some of the music has appeared in earlier EMI Bliss collections, I had not, for example, seen the unrivalled Melos Ensemble's version of the lovely Oboe Quintet on CD before. It is my favourite chamber work by Bliss and this is, in my opinion, the best version ever recorded.
I had forgotten how good the ballet score 'Adam Zero' was and Vernon Handley's version is first rate in all respects. Other highlights include 'Checkmate' (Suite from the ballet) and the dynamic Concerto for two pianos (a fine work). There are also rareities like 'A Song of Welcome' (listen out for the lovely, haunting opening of 'Soon it is dawn' - Dame Joan Sutherland's first studio recording). Not everything is here of course and those wishing to explore Bliss's music further need to hear 'Morning Heroes' (there is a fine EMI recording with Charles Groves and John Westbrook's moving narration), also the Piano Concerto and Meditations on a theme by John Blow'. Still, this is a great set with all the original booklet notes, a nice session photograph of Bliss at the recording for A Knot of Riddles plus the original cover of the old Pye LP of the same work, featuring a striking photo of Bliss, on the back of the booklet. Excellent value too. Don't hesitate this set will give many hours of listening pleasure.
on 11 March 2015
This is a fantastic collection, both in terms of coverage and quality. I had some of the pieces in the collection, but have discovered some excellent new ones. Bliss is composer who belonged to the "lost generation": their music was popular before the war but largely rejected as old fashioned after 1950 (BBC Radio 3 has a lot to answer for here: it prmoted modernist and avant garde composers at the expense of non-modernist British composers). Thankfully this has been reversed. The music of Bliss, Bax, Finzi and others is being rediscovered and seen to be of the highest quality. My personal favourites? Well, the miracle of the Gorbals, Adam zero and Checkmate are for me are the best of Bliss. However, there are other gems: his film music, the cello concerto and music for Strings. Missing: the violin concerto. The orchestras and conductors are generally fist rate (e.g.Tod Handley, Adrian Boult). CD 5 with Bliss conducting is a real blessing: the Gorbals is wonderful under his baton. Well worth the monsy. Only quibble: not mine, but some listeners might want more modern recordings: these are all good quality but dated.