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French
American Record Guide, February 2007

This is a real honey of an album! In the hands of Gavin Sutherland the strings of the Birmingham Royal Ballet are lithe beyond telling. They have depth and pace and a lilt that makes you feel as if they're speaking the lines. Their articulation, tone color, atmosphere, and incisiveness compel you to keep listening from one work to the next. The only exception is Purcell's Chacony in G-minor, where Sutherland, rather than drawing out inner lines, merely lets them speak for themselves.

I've long believed that everyone is born with a given set of tempos. Many conductors seem able to conduct only at their inner tempos. Some have more than others. Sutherland is gifted with the widest variety I remember encountering. As a result, he brings an extraordinary freshness to the 20 varied movements heard here. His biography in the liner notes makes him sound like a lightweight conductor of ballets, pops concerts, and musicals; but he seems far more than that.

The works themselves are gems, all in the tradition of English string serenades or suites­as glorious and mellow a tradition as the sound of English boys' choirs. The Holst, an arrangement by Philip Lane (who wrote the splendid, informative, succinct liner notes) of a suite originally for band, sets the tone for the album, which meanders from traditional suites (Adam Carse), rich moody nocturnes (Paul Carr and Lionel Sainsbury), and a Christmas carol (Peter Warlock) to a very late-romantic and lushly performed waltz by William, the father of two more-famous Lloyd Webbers, and a modern three-movement suite by Malcolm Lipkin that remains firmly in that English string serenade tradition and allows the program to end with a strong finish. (How often "collection" albums like this save the weakest for last.) The weakest work is Paul Lewis's 'Rosa Mundi', a short motif given four minutes of constant modulations in the same style as a "song" in Carse's work but without the inventiveness to stretch it into a tune. Still, it's beautifully performed.

The producers have laid out the works so that the key or mood of one selection flows naturally into the next, making listening even more pleasant. Engineering is peerless, and the strings are nicely tuned. At bargain price, you simply can't afford to miss it.



Jeremy Nicholas
Gramophone, December 2006

Pastoral, lyrical and melodic - this music could only be English

Over the years, Gavin Sutherland and the indefatigable Phillip Lane have created a valuable recorded library of short works by English composers, the sort one rarely hears in concert programmes and might never hear on disc without sponsorship (in this case, that of the Ralph Vaughan Williams Trust). Of the 20 movements that make up the nine titles on Volume 6, a mere handful last more than five minutes. Despite their distinctive harmonies and individual quirks, none of the nine composers could be mistaken for anything other than English - pastoral, lyrical and melodic.

Britten's edition of Purcell's Chacony is the only non-20th-century work (an airier but no less dignified account here than Britten's 1968 recording). Lane's arrangement of Holst's A Moorside Suite, originally for brass band, is highly effective, written in a "generally more extravagant" version, Lane tells us, before he was aware of the composer's own little-known string arrangement. Most young pianists will recognise the name of Adam Carse (1878-1958) from the many pieces he wrote for beginners. His Winton Suite, referring to the cathedral city of Winchester, is a five-movement charmer that looks back affectionately to the Baroque era.

William Lloyd Webber's Waltz, and the suites by Paul Carr (b 1961) and Malcolm Lipkin (b 1932), are rhythmically buoyant and more harmonically astringent. If Rosa mundi by Paul Lewis (b1943) is a touch derivative, it is nevertheless a beguiling recollection of lost love. But the piece that will truly haunt you is the first of the two Nocturnes by Lionel Sainsbury (b 1958), an ineffably touching miniature from 1990 that makes one want to hear more from this gifted Cotswold-based composer.



Raymond J Walker
MusicWeb International, November 2006

This disc of string miniatures contains a mixture of the works of contemporary and classical composers. If this is aimed at library collectors I should question the mixing of styles from so diverse a range of composers. The modern recording is of high calibre with competent musicians and leadership. Sutherland's reading is alert and intuitive, and he is clearly at home with this genre.

The Chacony in G Minor by Purcell is a set of variations of differing rhythmic patterns based on an eight bar section. It is the earliest of the compositions represented on the disc and has some endearing qualities.

An early suite by Holst, Moorside , carries distinctive mature characteristics of this Gloucestershire composer when 54. Of the movements, the March is the best, with tuneful distinctive charm. The Scherzo with folksong qualities is rather low key while the Nocturne meanders aimlessly without due focus.

A gathering breezy power of Carr's oddly titled, A Very English Music, successfully engages the listener as it sweeps across the Sussex landscape. I found the soundscape portrayed by The Hunt at Laycock somewhat disappointing: the orchestra pedantically trots along without the excitement of a galloping rhythm.

Sainsbury's Nocturnes are modern, but carry a certain classical respectability. Good chord structures give theMesto e semplice a tangible strength.

Lipkin's From Across La Manche opens with a stirring and energetic Overture somewhat reminiscent of a Hitchcock film score and follows with a tranquil and more accessible Ballade, written in the Bruckner vein. Its Dance-Finale seems inaptly titled since the broken rhythms are unlikely to fit any dancers' needs and I did not recognize the Mazurka style referred to in the notes.

Lewis's Rosa Mundi , the most recent composition on the disc, drifts with monotonous repetition of its simple theme.

The Winton Suite Prelude provides an energetic opening to provide contrast to a less inspired Air that follows. The truly inspired Dance is cheery and brings forth a spirit that is captivating. This mood is picked up again by the Finale that is enthusiastically played in sprightly fashion.

Good, brief notes are provided on the composers and background to the music. They are by Philip Lane and are in English only.



Bob McQuiston
Classical Lost and Found, October 2006

This is the sixth disc in the Naxos ongoing "English String Miniatures" series, and many may find it the best yet. The concert begins with two works by a couple of very well known English composers. The first is a terrific arrangement for strings of Gustav Holst's A Moorside Suite, which was originally for brass band. The second is a very moving chaconne by Henry Purcell in a setting for strings by Benjamin Britten. Then there are three suites by lesser known English composers Adam Carse (The Winton Suite), Paul Carr (A Very English Music) and Malcolm Lipkin (From Across La Manche) that will come as most welcome discoveries. When you hear the Carse you'll probably find yourself scratching your head and wondering where it's been hiding all these years. The Lipkin is a highly charged affair that ends with a manic-depressive mazurka that at one point spoofs Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons. Two elegiac pieces by Paul Lewis (Rosa Mundi) and Peter Warlock (Bethlehem Down) respectively, a transfigured waltz by William Lloyd Webber and a pair of dusky, but lovely nocturnes by Lionel Sainsbury fill out the program. The Royal Ballet Sinfonia under Gavin Sutherland gives spirited, yet sensitive performances, and the sound is quite good.



Gwyn Parry-Jones
MusicWeb International, October 2006

This is a real honey of an album! In the hands of Gavin Sutherland the strings of the Birmingham Royal Ballet are lithe beyond telling. They have depth and pace and a lilt that makes you feel as if they're speaking the lines. Their articulation, tone color, atmosphere, and incisiveness compel you to keep listening from one work to the next. The only exception is Purcell's Chacony in G-minor, where Sutherland, rather than drawing out inner lines, merely lets them speak for themselves.

I've long believed that everyone is born with a given set of tempos. Many conductors seem able to conduct only at their inner tempos. Some have more than others. Sutherland is gifted with the widest variety I remember encountering. As a result, he brings an extraordinary freshness to the 20 varied movements heard here. His biography in the liner notes makes him sound like a lightweight conductor of ballets, pops concerts, and musicals; but he seems far more than that.

The works themselves are gems, all in the tradition of English string serenades or suites­as glorious and mellow a tradition as the sound of English boys' choirs. The Holst, an arrangement by Philip Lane (who wrote the splendid, informative, succinct liner notes) of a suite originally for band, sets the tone for the album, which meanders from traditional suites (Adam Carse), rich moody nocturnes (Paul Carr and Lionel Sainsbury), and a Christmas carol (Peter Warlock) to a very late-romantic and lushly performed waltz by William, the father of two more-famous Lloyd Webbers, and a modern three-movement suite by Malcolm Lipkin that remains firmly in that English string serenade tradition and allows the program to end with a strong finish. (How often "collection" albums like this save the weakest for last.) The weakest work is Paul Lewis's 'Rosa Mundi', a short motif given four minutes of constant modulations in the same style as a "song" in Carse's work but without the inventiveness to stretch it into a tune. Still, it's beautifully performed.

The producers have laid out the works so that the key or mood of one selection flows naturally into the next, making listening even more pleasant. Engineering is peerless, and the strings are nicely tuned. At bargain price, you simply can't afford to miss it.



Rob Barnett
MusicWeb International, October 2006

Philip Lane's arrangement of A Moorside Suite (originally for brass band) creates a Holstian trinity when counted with the Brook Green and St Paul's suites. Without taking away at all from Philip Lane's considerable and sensitive artistry this 1928 brass band suite lies very adroitly with string instruments. The Nocturne in particular is nothing short of a masterpiece and it is performed with a sustained trembling hushed tension. Not to be missed. The flanking Scherzo and March skip along with their edge only slightly blunted by the warm recorded ambience.

Philip Lane's eminent skills as an arranger are in evidence again for Warlock's Bethlehem Down like an anhang to Capriol. It would fit in the company of any of the Capriol movements.

I have reviewed Cornishman Paul Carr's music before. His A Very English Music shows much more heart without mawkishness. It is in three movements. Cuckmere Haven looking towards Beachy Head must here have caught the composer on a sunny and serene day. Cornish Air is perhaps a little too like its predecessor - such liltingly beautiful tender writing, the shiver of bees flitting, the summer warmth but interestingly none of Cornwall's buffeting winds. The finale, Hunt Gathering is a portrait of the Boxing Day meet at the Yorkshire village of Laycock. It's an affable affair and no blood is spilt. Altogether a lovely triple part suite.

William Lloyd Webber's waltz is from the first year of the war. It's a grand and sometimes sunnily impressionistic affair with psychological undercurrents. I detect the odd nod towards Ravel's La Valse.

Lionel Sainsbury is a name I have long recommendded not least for his full-scale Violin Concerto. There is a cello concerto in the works too. His two nocturnes are damask dark and marmoreal - richly laid out and at times developing a Mahlerian heat. Steam rises at the end of the first of these before the lapping motion of the Mesto e semplice with a grand melody, often piercingly emotional. If the Carse is light baggage this work carries a trunkload of passion.

Liverpudlian Malcolm Lipkin used to have the occasional performance on Radio 3 but no more – more’s the pity. His three part suite From Across La Manche comprises a determined and slightly acidic proto-Shostakovichian Overture. There's a central Ballade of some emotional complexity and gentle meandering dissonance. There 's some Bach in there but also something of his teachers Seiber and Bernard Stevens. The Dance-finale has the punch of Bartók's fast string writing and a stabbing Herrmann-like determination. There's also some gratingly satisfying macabre writing in the high harmonics of the violins. Lipkin has three symphonies and an oboe concerto to his name. Let's have them recorded.

The Purcell/Britten Chacony marches slightly too quickly for my liking. Paul Lewis's Rosa Mundi is too sentimental to be anything other than light music - classy and with a tear forming. It was written as a lament for the passing of the single flower in the composer's room. Towards the end it leans on the example of the great melting melody in Malcolm Arnold's fifth symphony.

The Adam Carse suite is unsentimental across its five cleanly laid-out movements drawing on the spirit of eighteenth century dance suites. This is especially apparent in the Song movement which although fleet of foot recalls the famous Bach Air. This is music that in general is busy, skilled, flowing and athletic.

This is a classic collection and varied enough to be listenable at a single sitting. Outstanding in this company are the Holst, Carr and Sainsbury. There’s quite a bit of subtlety in this writing and the RBS and Gavin Sutherland happily catch the half-lights as well as the dazzle and the dark.



Gwyn Parry-Jones
MusicWeb International, October 2006

This is a real honey of an album! In the hands of Gavin Sutherland the strings of the Birmingham Royal Ballet are lithe beyond telling. They have depth and pace and a lilt that makes you feel as if they're speaking the lines. Their articulation, tone color, atmosphere, and incisiveness compel you to keep listening from one work to the next. The only exception is Purcell's Chacony in G-minor, where Sutherland, rather than drawing out inner lines, merely lets them speak for themselves.

I've long believed that everyone is born with a given set of tempos. Many conductors seem able to conduct only at their inner tempos. Some have more than others. Sutherland is gifted with the widest variety I remember encountering. As a result, he brings an extraordinary freshness to the 20 varied movements heard here. His biography in the liner notes makes him sound like a lightweight conductor of ballets, pops concerts, and musicals; but he seems far more than that.

The works themselves are gems, all in the tradition of English string serenades or suites­as glorious and mellow a tradition as the sound of English boys' choirs. The Holst, an arrangement by Philip Lane (who wrote the splendid, informative, succinct liner notes) of a suite originally for band, sets the tone for the album, which meanders from traditional suites (Adam Carse), rich moody nocturnes (Paul Carr and Lionel Sainsbury), and a Christmas carol (Peter Warlock) to a very late-romantic and lushly performed waltz by William, the father of two more-famous Lloyd Webbers, and a modern three-movement suite by Malcolm Lipkin that remains firmly in that English string serenade tradition and allows the program to end with a strong finish. (How often "collection" albums like this save the weakest for last.) The weakest work is Paul Lewis's 'Rosa Mundi', a short motif given four minutes of constant modulations in the same style as a "song" in Carse's work but without the inventiveness to stretch it into a tune. Still, it's beautifully performed.

The producers have laid out the works so that the key or mood of one selection flows naturally into the next, making listening even more pleasant. Engineering is peerless, and the strings are nicely tuned. At bargain price, you simply can't afford to miss it.






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10:25:19 PM, 12 July 2014
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