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Premieres and Encores
Henry Hugo PIERSON (1815-1873)

Macbeth, Symphonic Poem Op. 54 (1859) [20:34]
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Barry Wordsworth
Alan RAWSTHORNE (1905-1971)

Fantasy Overture. Cortèges (1945) [14:34]
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Barry Wordsworth
David MORGAN (1933-1988)

Contrasts (1974) [21:47]
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Vernon Handley
Francis CHAGRIN (1905-1972)

Concert Overture: Helter Skelter (1949) [6:46]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/John Pritchard
Peter WARLOCK (1894-1930)

Serenade for Strings (1922) [7:44]
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaite
Malcolm ARNOLD (1921-2006)

Comedy Overture: Beckus the Dandipratt (1943) [7:52]
London Symphony Orchestra/Nicholas Braithwaite
rec. Jan 1994,Watford Town Hall (Rawsthorne and Pierson); April 1976, Kingsway Hall (Morgan); Jan 1976, Kingsway Hall (Chagrin); Aug 1978, Kingsway Hall (Warlock); Sept 1978, Watford Town Hall (Harty)
LYRITA SRCD.318 [79.22]

A useful anthology from Lyrita, making available some long inaccessible material and some newly released items. Pierson’s Macbeth is very much a product of its time, a mid nineteenth century symphonic poem in definite Mendelssohnian vein. Pierson attempts to create a vaguely north-of-the-border feel by including some dotted rhythms here and there, and the supernatural and dramatic elements of Shakespeare’s play are fairly subtly delineated. It is a pleasant enough piece and well worth reviving.

Alan Rawsthorne wrote his Cortèges for the 1945 Proms. Despite the funereal-sounding title and the imposing slow opening, the work as a whole is sleek and mercurial, a whirlwind of thematic and contrapuntal development which dies away to a nostalgic conclusion.

David Morgan wrote his Contrasts in 1974 and the work was first performed, by the RPO and Vernon Handley, at a concert of contemporary music in January 1975. I am a little puzzled by the apparent dedication "to the memory of Shostakovich", as the piece was completed some months before the Soviet composer’s death. Contrasts features some interesting sonorities and is written in a fairly traditional vein for its time. The work is in two parts; a long, predominantly slow opening movement and a shorter second movement. The performance and recording are excellent, but to be honest I don’t find the work particularly memorable. The recording was originally issued on SRCS 97 coupled with Morgan’s Violin Concerto played by Erich Gruenberg, of which it would be interesting to have a reissue. Incidentally, the British Music Information Centre composer database tells us that Morgan died in 1988, a fact not recorded on the Lyrita booklet [information supplied to Lyrita and to be incorporated on re-print - LM].

Francis Chagrin’s Helter Skelter Overture and Arnold’s Beckus the Dandipratt come, as it were, from the same stable. The Chagrin is a short, enjoyable piece deriving from 1949 film music of the same name and was first performed by Boult and the LPO in January 1952. It is given a rumbustious performance by Pritchard. Beckus the Dandipratt comes into competition with the composer’s own reading with the RPO on EMI, not to mention Eduard van Beinum’s pioneering account with the LPO. Nicholas Braithwaite acquits himself well in this exalted company.

Between the Chagrin and Arnold pieces we are given by way of contrast Warlock’s Serenade for Strings with Nicholas Braithwaite and the LPO. Braithwaite avoids any charge of pastoral meandering by giving a clear, no-nonsense performance, which does not preclude poetry.

Overall an interesting collection, with some fine performances. If some of the actual music is not entirely top-notch, the performers make as good a case for it as they possibly can.

Ewan McCormick

See also reviews by Rob Barnett and John France RECORDING OF THE MONTH December 2008


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