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Stephen Ellis
Fanfare, November 2001

"A lovely choral performance in what might now be called an older style. He describes his interpretations as a return to earlier performance practice, but the effort only sounds labored, as if he is trying too hard. His singers labor too hard as well...At the modest price, this disc will fill a slot on your Palestrina shelf, but don't expect too much."

Stephen Ellis
Fanfare, November 2001

lovely Oboe Concerto and anguished Cello Concerto. © 2001 Fanfare Read complete review on Fanfare

Christopher Williams
Fanfare, August 2001

"[Alan Rawsthorne] most significant works have only lately been finding their way to recordings, several world premieres having been released over the past few years, remarkably, by the budget label Naxos...

The cellist plies rapid, tarantella like motions against a dark and glacially paced background, punctuated by fragmentary waltz themes that seem to recall Berg's Wozzeck, of all things. Indeed, Rawsthorne's masterful use of texture creates a gripping narrative that stresses continuity and subtlety rather than flashy virtuosity. I find this work to be in many respects a more interesting counterpart to Walton's much more famous work in the same genre. Cellist Alexander Baillie projects the brooding and taxing...solo part with fluency and a lyrical tone. A fascinating release, in excellent sound; highly recommended."

Paul Conway
The British Music Society, March 2001

"The belated appearance of Alan Rawsthorne's Symphonic Studies, his finest orchestral work, on CD in a modern recording would be a cause for celebration even if the performance was disappointing; fortunately it is far from that. The RSNO under the authoritative direction of David Lloyd-Jones gives an assured and dedicated reading which reinforces the stature of this masterpiece. It is astonishing to reflect that this is the composer's first orchestral work so confident and masterly is the handling of his forces and so inspired and diverse is the material... Stephane Rancourt and Alexander Baillie play with a genuine feeling for the distinguished solo writing intheir respective concerti and there could be no better first recording imagined for these distinctive compositions. The Symphonic Studies is the key work here, however, and the intensely idiomatic performance of that piece makes this well-filled and superbly recorded disc self-recommending."

Andrew Achenbach
Gramophone, February 2001

David Lloyd-Jones directs a swaggering, affectionate and ideally clear-headed account of Rawsthorne’s masterly Symphonic Studies (1939), one of the most stylish and exuberantly inventive products of British music from the first half of the last century. The work displays a formal elegance, impeccable craftsmanship and healthy concision that are mightily exhilarating. It is indeed, as John Belcher observes in his thoughtful booklet-essay, an impressively assured orchestral debut, its tightly knit 20-minute span evincing a remarkable emotional scope. As I say, the present, finely prepared display must be deemed a great success—a worthy successor, certainly, to both Constant Lambert’s classic 1946 Philharmonia version and Sir John Pritchard’s admirable 1975 Lyrita recording with the LPO (4/77—nla).

…Tim Handley’s engineering is immensely vivid and always most musically balanced. Overall, a wonderfully enterprising triptych and astonishing value for money. © 2001 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Geoffrey Norris
The Daily Telegraph (Australia), January 2001

"Cogency of argument, vigour of spirit and astute use of orchestral colour are brought together in the Symphonic Studies by Alan Rawsthorne (1905-1971). Written in 1938, this was Rawsthorne's first work for full orchestra, owing something to Hindemith's Mathis der Maler symphony, but still very much with a voice of its own.

"The RSNO under David Lloyd-Jones continues Naxos's exploratory survey of British music with a CD that demonstrates Rawsthorne's ear for instrumental personality and his talent for organizing material into music of refined craftsmanship. Within a pliably diatonic harmonic framework, there is ample variety of timbre and gesture to fuel the Oboe Concerto (1947) and the Cello Concerto (1965), both of them recorded here for the first time. The particular sound qualities of each solo instrument are exploited and nurtured, within a constantly shifting orchestral perspective."

Paul Cook, January 2001

"Once again Naxos pulls a rabbit out of its hat with this gorgeous release of Alan Rawsthorne's music (with two world premieres yet). Rawsthorne (1905-71) was one of a middle generation of 20th century British Romanticists whose music had a somewhat rough edge, veering toward elements of atonality without really crossing the line (this is particularly true of his symphonies). One of Rawsthorne's best works, easily ranking with his symphonies, is the Symphonic Studies (1939) performed here. With its shifting moods and bright orchestral colors, this work more closely resembles a concerto for orchestra and is full of delicious surprises. It alone is worth the price of admission.

"The world premieres here are the two concertos, one for oboe from 1947, the other a 1966 cello concerto. Both are mainstream Romantic works but with a bit more emotional content than found in the Symphonic Studies. The Oboe Concerto might draw comparisons with the one by Vaughan Williams, but while it has the same depth of emotion, it also has fewer melancholic elements. The soloist is Stéphane Rancourt, whose oboe provides a warm, sympathetic reading of the material without being assertive or showy. The Cello Concerto is a more dour work and it will remind the informed listener of Arnold Bax's cello concerto--but again, without that composer's brooding temperament. However, every performance element here is in place and the sound quality is superior. If you're new to Rawsthorne, there is no better introduction to his music than the Symphonic Studies. This is a real find."

Paul Driver
, December 2000

"Rawsthorne (1905-71) remains unjustly neglected. Born in Lancashire, he produced music with as much gritty northern individuality as that of Walton or Birtwistle. The best example is his first orchestral essay, Symphonic Studies (1938), a masterfully integrated 21-minute structure that, if not a one-movement symphony, is as near to that ideal as makes no difference. Its bluff, brassy, block-like opening paragraph, one of music's most striking, provides material for the rest of the work and returns with wonderfully portentous, rondo-like inevitability. The variety of mood is startling: yearning lyricism, airy caprice and ominousness are constantly intermingled, as this account beautifully makes clear. The Oboe Concerto (1947) and Cello Concerto (1965) are fine, and finely performed, but the disc is worth buying for the Studies alone."

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