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Nicholas MAW (b. 1935) Sinfonia* (1966) [30:00]
John ADDISON (1920-1998) Divertimento for Brass Quartet op. 9 (1951) [8:17]
John GARDNER (b. 1917) Theme and Variations for Brass Quartet op. 7 (1951) [9:55]
Stephen DODGSON (b. 1924) Sonata for Brass Quintet (1963) [10:48]
* English Chamber Symphony Orchestra/Norman Del Mar
Philip Jones Brass Ensemble (Philip Jones, Elgar Howarth (trumpets); Ifor James (horn); John Iveson (trombone); John Fletcher (tuba))
rec. 12 October 1970, The Maltings, Snape (Maw); 3 December 1974, Decca Studio No. 3, London (Gardner, Dodgson, Addison). Originally released on Argo LPs: ZRG 676 (1971) (Maw); ZRG 813 (1975). ADD.
LYRITA SRCD.307 [62:56]

Experience Classicsonline


This is a further welcome Lyrita collection of 1970s British Council-originated British music from the 1950s and 1960s. The transfers from analogue to digital have been done with his usual expertise by Simon Gibson. These recordings have never sounded as good as they sound here. The Decca house-style delivers ripe and vibrant sound and it still communicates without distortion. There’s urgency aplenty and the illusion of dynamic differentiation is nicely captured and put across.

The chill of dissonance had set in for the musical establishment during the 1950s and 1960s. The composers championed by Lyrita elsewhere in their catalogue had died and their music was disdained. There was a new hegemony. We can hear this from Maw’s Sinfonia in which the voices of Schoenberg and Stravinsky collude in an expertly balanced triumph of the orchestrator’s art. It remains an exciting work as evidenced by the coarse-toned horn hunting fanfares at 11:01 in the first movement and the prancing rambunctious Stravinskian finale. The central movement is an anxious meditation made memorable by the solo violin’s sensitive solo which leads the movement to its niente close.

After the Maw – the only orchestral work in the collection - comes three scores for brass ensemble. These are played by the ever adept Philip Jones Brass Ensemble. They are put through their paces and triumph over challenges not just with competence but with exuberance. Addison will be known as a composer for film and TV (A Bridge Too Far; Reach for the Sky; Murder, She Wrote) but he also wrote concert works including a Trumpet Concerto recorded on Louisville by Leon Rapier and in his last year, the Bassoon Concertino. His compact five movement Divertimento is witty and right to the point – a series of caricatures and character pieces. The finale is a Satie-Ibert romp. Gardner has had some long-delayed attention on CD recently and we must hope for much more. Here is a piece which kept his name in the LP catalogue for at least five years. The Theme and Variations – here heard in a single-tracked continuous sequence - is from the same Festival of Britain year as the Addison. It shares some of its jaunty confident optimism. Particularly memorable is the Rapsodie Espagnole-style Havanaise at 4.30 which is most seductively trumpeted. Stephen Dodgson’s five movement Sonata drops the clown’s mask and concentrates on the symphonic side. He does this with a tender gravity and a communicative style that kicked back against the current of the early 1960s. His serious mien does not prevent the finale having a lighter touch. Plenty to engage heart and head in this work. Do try his orchestral music as well: Biddulph.

We are led through this unfamiliar music by the illuminating writing of Paul Conway whose accessible and informative style satisfied both generalist – like yours truly – and those with more technical knowledge.

Music of the 1950s and 1960s spanning the cultural mainstream with Maw and the more accessible fringe accommodated in the welcoming realm of the small brass ensemble. Performances that are virtuosic in their brilliance of despatch and in their poetry.

Rob Barnett

Other Maw on Lyrita
Scenes and Arias SRCD.267
Sonata for two horns and strings SRCD.335




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