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The UK's BBC Promenade Concerts are in full swing, so it won't be long before it's curtain up on the sea of Union Jacks and waves of community singing that hallmark the festival's celebrated Last Night jamboree in London's Royal Albert Hall. With the audience unified by the magic of music, thoughts about the implications of Brexit will be left in the cloakroom, if only for a while. We extend that calmer reflection of a United Kingdom here with a survey of our new releases in August and September that feature British composers and performers – from England, Scotland, Wales and both a pre- and post-partitioned Ireland.
August releases
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FIELD, J.: Piano Concerto No. 7 / Irish Concerto / Piano Sonata No. 4
Frith, Northern Sinfonia, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Haslam, Mogrelia

Dublin-born prodigy John Field enjoyed a wide reputation and great popularity. He was renowned as a soloist for his delicacy of nuance and as a composer for his cultivation of that most poetic of forms, the nocturne. His Piano Concertos were eagerly anticipated and the première of the Concerto No. 7 in Paris on Christmas Day 1832 was attended by both Chopin and Liszt. Ingeniously structured in two movements, its Rondo finale evokes the ballroom and Russia in a series of constant contrasts. The Irish Concerto is a reworking of the first movement of Field’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in A flat major. Piano Concertos No. 1–6 can be heard on 8.553770, 8.553771 and 8.574221.

This disc is a melting pot of performers from all over the kingdom: Irish composer (John Field), English soloist (Benjamin Frith), Scottish and English orchestras (Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Northern Sinfonia), directed by conductors who were born in England (David Haslam) and Wales (Andrew Mogrelia).

Listen to an extract from Piano Concerto No. 7 in C Minor:
II. Rondo: Allegro moderato

Listen to Raymond Bisha's podcast about this recording

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MATHIAS, W.: Choral Music
St Albans Abbey Girls Choir, St Albans Cathedral Choir, Lay Clerks, Winpenny

William Mathias was one of the foremost British composers of the 20th century and one of the very few of his generation from Wales who established an international reputation. The lively Christmas sequences Ave Rex and Salvator Mundi contrast with the splendour and tenderness of the rarely-performed anthem An Admonition to Rulers. Also included are the joyful Wassail Carol, the popular organ solo Toccata Giocosa, and première recordings of All thy works shall praise thee and The Lord’s Prayer—respectively the composer’s first and last choral works.

William Mathias was one of the few Welsh composers of his generation to establish an international reputation. His choral works are here in the safe hands of the English choral tradition (St Albans Cathedral choristers), accompanied by soloists educated variously in England and Scotland and an orchestra (Orchestra Nova) that specialises in the music of English composers.

Listen to an extract from Salvator Mundi:
VII. Welcome, Yule

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VAUGHAN WILLIAMS, R.: 49th Parallel: Prelude / Coastal Command Suite / The Story of a Flemish Farm Suite
RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Penny

Ralph Vaughan Williams composed in a wide variety of genres, and film music became a significant part of his output in the latter decades of a long and distinguished career. He viewed film scores as more than just ephemera, seeking to “intensify the spirit of the whole” in wartime productions such as the defiantly ant-Nazi 49th Parallel and Coastal Command, in which the graceful romance of sea-planes sends the spirits soaring. The haunting and evocative atmosphere of The Flemish Farm contrasts with Three Portraits that evoke the first Elizabethan age and announce the springtime of the second.

Composers don't come more quintessentially English than Ralph Vaughan Williams; nor conductors, when it's the English music specialist Andrew Penny on the podium, here directing the Republic of Ireland's RTÉ Concert Orchestra.

Listen to an extract from Coastal Command Suite:
I. Prelude

September releases
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NYMAN, M.: Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (The) [Chamber Opera]
Treviño, Sjöwall, MacPherson, Nashville Opera Orchestra, D. Williamson

Michael Nyman’s one-act chamber opera The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat takes as its subject Dr P, a man suffering from visual agnosia, or ‘mental blindness’, and is adapted from the neurological study in the book of the same name by Oliver Sacks. For Nyman, Dr P ‘requires music as a lifeline, cue, clue, cure’, living as he does in a world lacking visual meaning. It is through his musical gifts that Dr P reclaims meaning from chaos, Nyman’s tautly conceived masterpiece providing a perfect medium through which the moving drama can be explored.

Born and educated in London, Michael Nyman's credentials as one the most famous English living composers arise from his extensive and diverse output. Opera, however, is his preferred medium. The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat is based on the book of the same title by Oliver Sacks, the celebrated neurologist, naturalist and author, who was also born in London.

Listen to an extract from Scene 3:
The House Call: Bösendorfer!

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Stanford, C.V.: Choral Music - Stabat Mater / Song to the Soul / The Resurrection
The Bach Choir, Bournemouth Symphony, D. Hill

Choral music was central to Charles Villiers Stanford’s life as a composer. Balancing solemnity with rapturous affirmation, The Resurrection was his first major choral work, written while he was studying under Carl Reinecke in Leipzig and anticipating Mahler’s use of Klopstock’s eponymous poem in his ‘Resurrection’ Symphony. The dramatic, at times almost operatic and Wagnerian Stabat Mater is a cantata with two purely orchestral movements suggestive of a large-scale symphony, while Song to the Soul contains some of Stanford’s most exhilarating utterances, though it was never performed in his lifetime.

Born in Dublin in 1852, Stanford established himself in England as a leading figure in the musical life of the country. His works, however, fell out of fashion toward the end of his life. A resurgence of interest in and respect for his music is currently in the making, witness this recording by an all-English line-up of conductor, soloists and orchestra.

Listen to an extract from Stabat Mater:
Eja Mater

[8-CD Boxed Set]
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FINZI, G.: Finzi Anthology (A) (8-CD Box Set)
Artists include: Plane, Hugh, Donohoe, Williams, Gilchrist, Ainsley, Burnside, Choir of St. John's College, Cambridge

More than any other composer, Gerald Finzi (1901–1956) has come to embody the lyrical pastoralism so associated with English twentieth-century music. This anthology includes eight critically acclaimed recordings of Finzi’s works. The themes of fragility and transient existence are expressed in three early song anthologies with words by Thomas Hardy, Finzi’s favourite poet. Intimations of Immortality is a deeply touching lament for the passing of the freshness of childhood, while the tender Dies natalis is a setting of texts by the 17th-century poet Thomas Traherne. Lo, the Full, Final Sacrifice takes the listener through a feast of moods and textures and ends with one of the most sublime Amens in all choral music. Finzi’s enchanting Clarinet Concerto was completed in 1949 in response to a commission from the Three Choirs Festival and the Cello Concerto, with its elegiac slow movement, was composed when Finzi learned that he was suffering from an incurable illness and is one of his finest works.

Lyrical, pastoral, unforgettable – music by the English composer Gerald Finzi is now gathered into an 8-CD boxed set, with all the works performed by an assembly of Britain's finest singers and instrumentalists.

Listen to an extract from Let Us Garlands Bring:
It was a Lover and his Lass

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