ALWYN: Blackdown (A Tone Poem from the Surrey Hills). BANTOCK: The
Witch of Atlas GURNEY: A Gloucesteshire Rhapsody).
GARDINER: A Berkshire Idyll. AUSTIN: Spring (Symphonic
Rhapsody). VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: The Solent.
MacMIlLAN: Stabat Mater
JOHNSON: Symphony No. 9. Op. 295. Communion Antiphon No.
14. Op. 359. Motet No. 2, Op. 257 No. 2.
Chandos has started a new series—British Tone Poems—featuring the works mentioned above. Detailed program notes describe each work in detail, and producers have carefully provided separate tracks for each section of each work enhancing the listening experience. Each of these short works is a treasure, rarely recorded—Gardiner's A Berkshire Idyll is a world premiere recording. Henry Balfour Gardiner (1877 - 1950) was a wealthy British composer who used his resources to help finance many musical activities. He wrote some splendid choral music, and 2 symphonies, but unfortunately he destroyed most of his scores. His Berkshire Idyll is a lovely piece; let us hope more of his music will be discovered and recorded. Incidentally, he was the great-uncle of Sir John Eliot Gardiner. Rumon Gamba is an expert in British music (his recording of some of Malcolm Arnold's symphonies are brilliant), and he leads sensitive performances of all of this ingratiating music. The Chandos engineers have displayed their usual expertise in creating a rich, natural sound. I look forward to future issues in this enterprising series.
This site has praised several previous recordings of choral music of James MacMillan: Britania (REVIEW) and varied choral works (REVIEW). ¹he distinguished British composer has had a long association with The Sixteen, first in 2001 when they commissioned O bone Jesu. In 2009 they premiered Misirere. The most recent collaboration is this Stabat Mate. Stabat Mater is a 13th century Latin poem meditating on the plight of Mary watching the death of Christ on the cross. MacMillan's version was commissioned by the Genesis Foundation for Harry Christophers and The Sixteen, dedicated by MacMillan to John Studzinsky who created the Genesis Foundation. This is an amazing high emotion choral masterpiece in MacMillan's distinctive style, incredibly difficult for the singers and the string orchestra. The recording was made October 31 / November 1, 2016 in London's St. Augustine's Church, and engineers have captured the rich sounds of the venue in proper perspective. Complete texts are provided. Harry Christopher wrote the program notes. An important issue!
Toccata Classics is to be commended for their interest in unusual repertory. They have issued countless premiere recordings giving collectors the opportunity to hear new and perhaps memorable music. Recently they issued four disks of orchestral and piano solo music by Edinburgh composer Charles O’Brien (1882–1968). I haven't heard these, but I have heard their new issue of orchestral music by David Hackbridge Johnson (b. 1963). He came from family that appreciated fine music, which he experiencedt via recordings and concerts. He began composing at the age of 11 and has written works in all genres. including 9 symphonies,8 tone poems, 7 quartets, song cycles, and solo instrumental works. He says he was influenced by Copland, Sibelius, and Tchaikovsky (although one would not suspect that from his music). Publicity indicates that few of his numerous works have actually been performed. This recording of three of his works was made December 6/7, 2016 in Liverpool. The symphony has two long outer movements, with the second consisting of 22 very brief interludes. We also have Communion Antiphon No. 14 and Motet No. 2. It would be interesting to know how this recording came to be. Surely it was expensive to hire the fine Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. There is good reason why Johnson's music isn't performed. Unfortunately the long symphony surely doesn't amount to much. There is nothing new or exciting here, nothing memorable. .Performances seem to do what can b e done with this music, but I surely do not wish to hear it again. You can sample the symphony on YouTube if you are curious.
R.E.B . (April 2017)