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What an exciting summer in the United Kingdom! Hot on the heels of the Diamond Jubilee, all eyes are again on London, where the city is gearing up for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, to be held 27 July to 12 August. This year, the BBC Proms will be part of the London 2012 Festival – the cultural celebrations of the Games – in a marathon programme of top performances stretching over eight weeks until 8th of September.

To get in the mood, Naxos has garnered an exciting selection of critically acclaimed recordings of British music to celebrate the season and the best of British. Cheers!


Latest Releases

8.572840
MUSIC FROM THE ETON CHOIRBOOK
TONUS PEREGRINUS

The Eton Choirbook is a giant 500 year-old manuscript from Eton College Chapel, and one of the greatest surviving glories of pre-Reformation England. This recording features the earliest polyphonic Passion by a named composer, two heartrending motets for five and six voices, two thrilling settings of the Magnificat, and an extraordinary canon in 13 parts, Jesus autem transiens. The ensemble TONUS PEREGRINUS has been widely acclaimed, not least for its “richly sung and very well recorded” programme of Orlando Gibbons, L’Estrange, and Pitts. (The Penguin Guide on 8.557681)

8.572350
MAXWELL DAVIES Symphony No. 3, Cross Lane Fair
BBC Philharmonic
Peter Maxwell Davies

Peter Maxwell Davies’s Symphony No 3 is the product of symmetry and proportion based on the principles of Renaissance architecture. It is also a dynamic and thrilling seascape, one that both invokes medieval chant and summons up the violent buffeting of the waves, and the stirring cliff-face full of nesting birds. The dual inspirations of proportion and the natural world are seamlessly coalesced, and the Symphony teems with evocative sounds and brooding passages both expansive and time-defying in their beauty. Cross Lane Fair is a lighter work, scored for Northumbrian pipes, bodhran (an Irish drum) and chamber orchestra, inspired by the memories of a fairground that Maxwell Davies visited as a child.

8.572761
ENGLISH MUSIC FOR VIOLA AND PIANO
Sarah-Jane Bradley, viola
Christian Wilson, piano

The four English composers represented on this disc were all born within a generation, and were inspired by the pioneering violist Lionel Tertis. Bainton’s 1922 Viola Sonata veers restlessly between autumnal song and militaristic intensity, possibly influenced by his wartime experiences. Theodore Holland’s Suite in D is a theatrical, wide-ranging work full of ingenious themes, whilst York Bowen’s Piece for Viola is brief but ardent. Bantock’s Viola Sonata, by contrast, is a large-scale, powerful and rhapsodic statement full of profuse lyricism and romantic feeling.

8.572861-62
DELIUS A Mass of Life, Prelude and Idyll
soloists • The Bach Choir
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
David Hill

Long an admirer of Nietzsche’s poetry, Frederick Delius composed A Mass of Life while at the height of his powers, blending passages from Also Sprach Zarathustra into orchestral textures of great expressive depth and striking beauty. Written in his final years, the Prelude and Idyll sourced music from a long discarded opera, transforming a story of lust and vengeance into one which emphasizes the transience of life and love. David Hill’s previous BSO recordings include a “perfectly judged” Dies natalis by Gerald Finzi (The Guardian on 8.570417), while his Vaughan Williams Sancta Civitas (8.572424) was described as “thrilling…a great case for a neglected work”. (Classic FM)

8.572914
HOLST Cotswolds Symphony, Walt Whitman Overture, Indra
Ulster Orchestra
JoAnn Falletta

Gustav Holst’s youthful enthusiasm for Wagner is reflected in his ebullient Walt Whitman overture written in 1899. Shortly afterwards he composed the Cotswolds Symphony which embraces hints of contemporary British folk music but is dominated by the slow movement, a profound elegy for the utopian socialist William Morris. Though completed at college, A Winter Idyll shows real orchestral assurance. Indra is an accomplished tone poem revealing Holst’s interest in the legends of India, whilst the glittering and evocative Japanese Suite was written in response to a request from a Japanese dancer appearing in London.


Orchestral Music

8.557764
HANDEL Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks
Aradia Ensemble
Kevin Mallon

Brimming with exhilarating dance tunes and colourful sonorities, Handel’s Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks are his two most popular orchestral works. They were composed, respectively, for royal water parties on the River Thames in August 1715 and July 1717, and to celebrate the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1749, with a fireworks display in Green Park, London. While the July 1717 entertainment was an unqualified success – the King “caused it to be plaid three times in going and returning” – the Royal Fireworks of 1749 was “ill-conducted” and a pyrotechnic disaster, with one of the pavilions catching fire! This is the first recording of Music for the Royal Fireworks to include a transverse flute, as indicated in the original manuscript. It is used to especially beautiful effect in La Paix ([20]).

8.570145
ALWYN Concerti Grossi Nos. 2 and 3
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
David Lloyd-Jones

There are several descriptive scores in William Alwyn’s prolific output, including The Moor of Venice Dramatic Overture which examines the turbulent central character in Shakespeare’s Othello. The Serenade and the orchestral version of Seven Irish Tunes receive première recordings here, both covering a wide range of moods. Following his acclaimed recording of the Concerto Grosso No. 1 (Naxos 8.570704), David Lloyd-Jones here completes the set, the second of which is scored for strings, and concluding with the Concerto Grosso No. 3 which is a tribute to Sir Henry Wood.

8.572640
ARNOLD Cello Concerto, Symphony for Strings
Raphael Wallfisch, cello
Northern Chamber Orchestra • Nicholas Ward

Sir Malcolm Arnold’s preference for classical forms is fully explored in this representative but uniquely distinctive programme. Orchestrations of earlier works form the lyrical Concertino for Flute and Strings and a Saxophone Concerto whose bold statements foreshadow the gritty and powerful Symphony for Strings. Arnold’s virtuoso Fantasy for Recorder and String Quartet is a late work, and the Cello Concerto was the composer’s last in this form; a piece which speaks directly from the soul, appearing here in its première recording.

8.572986
BANKS SIX Pieces for Orchestra
City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
Paul Englishby

Tony Banks, founder member of rock band Genesis, has already written a much admired orchestral work called Seven (8.557466), which was praised for its ‘genuine melodic gift’ (Gramophone). His new work consists of six evocative songs without words which may evoke in the listener ideas of seduction, journey, hero, quest, decision and goal. Two of the pieces feature solo instruments—alto saxophone on Siren and violin on Blade—played here by elite soloists, which mesh into Banks’s orchestral tapestry with bewitching effect. The remaining pieces reveal his outstanding lyrical gifts and total command of musical narrative.

8.572597
BAX Winter Legends, Morning Song, Saga Fragment
Ashley Wass, piano
Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
James Judd

Arnold Bax was one of the major forces in British composition between the two world wars, his music blending broad melodies and brilliant orchestral sonorities into a lush Romantic sound world. The three works on this disc were composed for the renowned pianist Hilary Cohen. Bax described Winter Legends as ‘a northern nature piece full of sea and pine forest and dark legends’. Subtitled ‘Maytime in Sussex’, Morning Song celebrated the 21st birthday of the then Princess Elizabeth. In contrast, martial overtones give the Saga Fragment, the composer’s own orchestration of his Piano Quartet of 1922, a darker hue.

8.572598
IRELAND Piano Concerto, Legend, First Rhapsody
John Lenehan, piano
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
John Wilson

John Ireland’s radiant Piano Concerto was written for his protégée Helen Perkin, and is infused with her sense of vitality. The result is a brilliant work of high spirits and expressive longing. Perkin also premièred Legend, a dark, brooding evocation of the ancient landscape of Harrow Hill on the Sussex Downs. Of the solo piano works, the First Rhapsody is earlier, virtuosic, and in the Lisztian tradition, whereas Indian Summer is a rural postcard of beguiling simplicity. John Lenehan has recorded three volumes of Ireland’s solo piano music (8.553700, 8.553889 and 8.570461) to universal admiration: ‘Lenehan offers a uniquely vital and dramatic reading of the sonata.’ (MusicWeb International on Vol. 3)

8.572349
MAXWELL DAVIES Symphony No. 2, St Thomas Wake
BBC Philharmonic
Peter Maxwell Davies

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s Second Symphony is his ‘Sea Symphony’, a complex, virtuosic work that explores in absorbing, increasingly dynamic fashion, the ocean’s proximity and what the composer calls ‘the architecture of its forms’. Both themes and orchestration are masterly. The percussion section is richly voiced, adding considerably to the symphony’s very particular, rugged and varied sound world. St Thomas Wake, by contrast, is a disquieting but bravura exercise in parody, evoking memories of the composer’s experiences during the Second World War.

8.572304
VAUGHAN WILLIAMS Piano Concerto
Ashley Wass, piano
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
James Judd

The popular overture from Vaughan Williams’s incidental music for Aristophanes’s The Wasps introduces a suite whose mischievously witty, noble and farcical movements underline the play’s satire of the Athenian legal system. A similar vivacity characterises his English Folksong Suite and The Running Set, where Vaughan Williams relishes setting tunes such as Barrack HillIrish ReelThe Blackthorn Stick and Cock o’ the North. Folksong-like melodies also feature in his magnificent Piano Concerto, in which the magisterial influence of Bach and Busoni may also be heard.


Operas / Theatre Music

8.660306-07
MACFARREN Robin Hood [opera]
soloists • John Powell Singers
Victorian Opera Chorus and Orchestra
Ronald Corp

George Macfarren was considered by many of his contemporaries as the greatest British dramatic opera composer since Purcell. Described by Edward J Dent as ‘very full of good fun and on the way to Sullivan’, Robin Hood is Macfarren’s masterpiece, one of an impressive roster of now neglected mid-nineteenth-century British operas, notable for its fine ensemble scenes, witty motifs, and deft, imaginative orchestration. Victorian Opera’s recording of Wallace’s Lurline (8.660293-94) was widely admired: ‘the opera and the performance are both a delight.’ (American Record Guide)

8.570149
PURCELL Theatre Music, Vol. 1
Aradia Ensemble
Kevin Mallon

Written mostly during the last five years of his life, Purcell’s Theatre Music is a rich and varied collection of some of the composer’s finest melodic inspirations. They include solemn overtures, cheerful and sad songs, as well as delightful dances, either incorporated into the action of the play or performed as preludes and interludes. This first volume of the series includes many gems such as the erotic musical diversion in Amphitryon which takes the form of a Pastoral Dialogue betwixt Thyrsis and Iris, the amorous shepherd begging for, and finally being granted, his heart’s desire; and the series of dances in The Gordian Knot Unty’d, the most delightful of which are the RondeauMinuett and the final Chacone.

8.660308-09
WALLACE Maritana [opera]
soloists • RTÉ Philharmonic Choir
RTÉ Concert Orchestra

Maritana was one of the most popular of mid-nineteenth-century British operas. Its 1848 première was a triumph and was soon followed by performances in opera houses from Vienna to Philadelphia. The absurd plot, which contrasts life at the Spanish court with that of the Gypsy street-singer of the title, is subsidiary to the appeal of a string of infectious and much loved arias such as There is a flower that bloometh and Yes! Let me like a soldier fall. Wallace’s opera Lurline is available on Naxos 8.660293–94, on which the American Record Guide commented: ‘The opera and the performance are both a delight.’


Vocal and Choral Music

8.572600
BRITTEN Songs and Proverbs of William Blake, Tit for Tat, Folk-songs
Roderick Williams, baritone
Iain Burnside, piano

Britten wrote his Songs and Proverbs of William Blake, Op 74 for the German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in 1965. The singer admired the ‘concentration and enigmatic smile’ of the settings, and Britten constructed, through alternation of proverbs with songs, and an intense contemplation on the human and the eternal, one of his greatest song cycles. By contrast Tit for Tat sees Britten revisiting youthful, light-spirited settings of the poet Walter de la Mare. The folk-song arrangements are amongst his most famous, and beloved.

8.572733
DOVE The Passing of the Year
Convivium Singers
Neil Ferris

Jonathan Dove is one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary music, and his writing for choral forces is charged with intensity and beauty. The Passing of the Year is dedicated to the memory of his mother and sets seven texts with moving directness and a beguiling sense of the seasons’ passing. It sounded as if the streets were running also celebrates nature, his setting of the storm imagery in Emily Dickinson’s poetry rich in surging climaxes. Vivid characterization, this time of animals, suffuses Who killed Cock Robin? Which, like all Dove’s music, is hugely approachable, varied and exciting.

8.572832
PHILIPS Cantiones Sacrae Quinis et Octonibus Vocibus
The Sarum Consort
Andrew Mackay

Peter Philips was the most famous English composer of his time, and only Byrd, a generation older, had more compositions published. Much of Philips’s life was spent on the Continent, where he wrote music of intricate, text-conscious colour, both deeply expressive and architecturally powerful. His motets and anthems, whether celebratory, meditative or dramatic, embrace the widest range of feeling and texture. The much-admired Sarum Consort’s disc All the Queen’s Men (8.572582) was praised for its ‘energy and aplomb’. (American Record Guide)

8.572739
IN THE HEART OF THINGS: Choral Music of Francis Pott
Commotio
Matthew Berry

Composer and pianist Francis Pott is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards. His dramatic and emotionally challenging music unites a distinctive personal voice with a versatile technique rooted in a keen awareness of the past. His Mass expands on tonal frames of reference from Byrd and Tallis, incorporating a poignant Agnus Dei written as a memorial to Dr Anabela Bravo. Mary’s Carol and Lamentare also tender commemorations, the latter for one of the quiet heroes of the Afghanistan conflict. These deeply expressive works give a distinctive modern voice to the timeless mysteries of human experience.

8.557130
RUTTER Requiem, Anthems
Choir of Clare College, Cambridge
Timothy Brown

Produced by the composer himself, this is the first recording of the ensemble version of John Rutter’s radiant Requiem. Written in 1985, the work is not a conventional setting of the Requiem Mass but comprises a personal selection of texts from the Catholic liturgy and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. John Rutter maintains intimate ties with Clare College and some of his anthems are left as a musical legacy to the college. Among these are two simple, tender blessings: Go forth into the world in peace, dedicated to the choir on the eve of its first tour to America; and A Clare Benediction, written as a gift to Rutter’s alma mater. This recording is dedicated to the memory of Christopher Rutter.

8.572653
RUTTER Gloria, Magnificat, Te Deum
St Albans Cathedral Choirs
Ensemble DeChorum
Andrew Lucas

Acclaimed British composer John Rutter’s Gloria was a milestone in his career and remains an evergreen favourite with choirs worldwide for its freshness, drama and sheer beauty. His joyous setting of the Magnificat was conceived, in the composer’s words, as ‘a bright Latin-flavoured fiesta’ and is performed here in its version for choir, organ and chamber orchestra. This delightful choral album concludes with Rutter’s setting of the Te Deum, one of the church’s most ebullient hymns of praise to the Almighty.

8.572737
WHITBOURN Living Voices
Westminster Williamson Voices
James Jordan

James Whitbourn is known for his ‘boundless breadth of choral imagination’ (The Observer) resulting in compositions of brilliance and power. His extraordinary work for choir, saxophone and organ, Son of God Mass, receives a new recording from the young voices of one of Westminster Choir College of Rider University’s finest chamber choirs under the leading American choral conductor James Jordan. It is heard alongside a collection of première recordings of other works associated with life and death, including the Requiem canticorum and Living Voices, a work to commemorate the dead of 9/11 with a poem by Andrew Motion.


Chamber and Instrumental Music

8.572902
EVENING SONGS: Delius and Ireland songs arranged for cello and piano
Julian Lloyd Webber, cello
Jiaxin Cheng, cello
John Lenehan, piano

Frederick Delius’s beautiful songs show his extraordinary gift for melody. John Ireland admired Delius enormously and his songs are inspired by a wide variety of literature, including his hugely popular setting of John Masefield’s Sea Fever. Renowned cellist Julian Lloyd Webber celebrates both composers’ remarkable melodic gifts in these sensitive arrangements, and pianist John Lenehan has received great acclaim for his Naxos recordings of Ireland’s complete piano music.

8.572580
BOWEN Viola Sonatas Nos. 1 and 2, Phantasy
The Bridge Duo

Inspired by the ‘father of the modern viola’ Lionel Tertis, London-born composer Edwin York Bowen preferred the tone of this instrument to that of the violin. Encouraged by Tertis, his two widely contrasting Sonatas are pioneering in their use of the viola as a virtuoso solo instrument. Though roughly half the length of the Sonatas, the exuberant Phantasy takes us on a journey through a huge variety of tempo, texture, tonality and moods. The Bridge Duo’s recital of English Music for Viola (8.572579) was acclaimed as ‘excellent’ and ‘essential listening’. (MusicWeb International)

8.572433
BYRD Complete Fantasias for Harpsichord
Glen Wilson, harpsichord

The fantasia was in the process of being adapted for keyboard from lute and consort music during William Byrd’s youth, and his formidable mastery of counterpoint brought the form to a pinnacle equivalent to his matchless vocal works. These splendours combine with lively dances and virtuoso display and quotations from songs of love and death. They also may hold fascinating symbols which mark secret Catholic allegiances, a gift for Elizabeth I, and a memorial to the tragic Mary, Queen of Scots. Our cover image shows the only possible contemporary impression of Byrd, as a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal at the funeral of Elizabeth I.

8.572649
HOLBROOKE Violin Concerto ‘The Grasshopper’
Violin Sonata No. 1 • Horn Trio

Kerenza Peacock, violin
Mark Smith, horn
Robert Stevenson, piano

Holbrooke is a fascinating and important figure in British music. His Violin Sonata No. 1—also called a Sonatina—is a bright, engaging and light-hearted work that owes something to his interest in popular song. His Violin Concerto, subtitled ‘The Grasshopper’, was published in full score and in two versions for violin and piano—including a ‘sonata’ version with a somewhat technically less demanding final movement. In this recording we present the original ‘concerto’ version. This beautiful work, admired by the great critic Ernest Newman, is full of lyrical freedom, and also some coruscating technical demands. The Horn Trio took Brahms’s similar trio as a precedent, and is a work of great dignity and melodic appeal.

8.572775
WALLACE Celtic Fantasies
Rosemary Tuck, piano
Richard Bonynge, piano

Wallace was, from his youth, steeped in Irish and Scottish traditional music. In 1848, five years after his brilliant successes in New York as a virtuoso pianist, he published his first set of arrangements, others following almost to the year of his death. In these ingenious and lovely works, written for the burgeoning domestic market, he avoids sentimentality, concentrating instead on warmth, wit, a touch of self-quotation, and brilliance. Rosemary Tuck and Richard Bonynge are the world’s leading interpreters of Wallace’s music. Volume 1 is available on 8.572774.


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