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English Music For Strings / Yates, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic

Bax / Bell / Arnell / Del Mar / Rlpo / Yates
Release Date: 05/11/2010 
Label:  Dutton Laboratories/Vocalion   Catalog #: 7244   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Stephen DodgsonRichard ArnellNorman Del MarArnold Bax
Performer:  Stephen Bell
Conductor:  Martin Yates
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic OrchestraBBC Concert Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 6 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

ENGLISH MUSIC FOR STRINGS Martin Yates, cond.; Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra; BBC Concert Orchestra; 1 Stephen Bell (hn 1 ) DUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7244 (66:29)

BAX Variations on the Name Gabriel Fauré. Symphonic Serenade. DODGSON Essay No. 7. Read more class="COMPOSER12">ARNELL Classical Variations. 1 DEL MAR Allegro Concertante

With this release of five premiere recordings, Dutton has once again made another typical and indispensable contribution toward the expansion of the rich trove of English music for large string orchestra.

This ravishing program opens with two works by Arnold Bax, written at opposite ends of his life. Though premiered posthumously, the 19-minute Variations on the Name Gabriel Fauré for string orchestra plus harp grew out of a piano suite begun in 1945 and orchestrated and published four years later. The main theme, a musical transcription of the letters F-A-U-R-E, is one of late-Bax’s most felicitous, and it is treated to a supple and diversified series of metamorphoses (Idyll, Barcarolle, Polka, Storm, and Quodlibet) which comprise a fluently nuanced and well-contrasted succession of lyrical aperçus , to which the harp contributes occasional but telling touches of gossamer elaboration.

Symphonic Serenade is the title conferred by “realizer” Graham Parlett (whose remarkable completion of the 1953 Bax Piano Concertino appears on a recent Somm release) on an incomplete 1911 manuscript that may have actually been intended as the finale of an abandoned symphony. This transformation is a lush and lilting 16-minute exemplar of the impulsive youthful Bax at full throttle.

Stephen Dodgson (b. 1924) is one of those relatively unsung Englishmen who have nonetheless been gradually but quietly building an increasingly impressive body of work. Originally noted for his two guitar concertos, he has also produced a series of forceful string quartets (Nos. 5, 6, and 7 are available on an earlier Dutton disc) and, as of now, nine one-movement orchestral pieces he has titled “essays.” These works would seem to play a role in his development as a kind of symphonic series, and this 17-minute Seventh Essay of 1992 is scored for strings only and achieves a level of concentration and complexity—as well as dramatic incident—comparable to a single-movement sinfonia. Dodgson’s idiom suggests an awareness of the post-Baxian generation of Tippett and Britten (even Rawsthorne) without in any significant way resembling them. This work, together with a concomitant Dutton recording of the first six essays for full orchestra, certify that Dodgson, now in his mid 80s, has become a composer to conjure with.

Though Richard Arnell is quoted in the booklet regarding his studies of invention and fugue with teacher John Ireland, there is nothing of the academic exercise in his Classical Variations of 1939. Published as his op. 1 but actually composed several years later during his wartime sojourn in New York, this 13-minute score is based on a characteristically Arnellian theme full of his distinctive gravitas and grace. It is subjected to a sequence of incarnations (Chorale, Canzone, Minuet, Alla breve, Intermezzo, Scherzo) which, like the Bax Fauré Variations, provide multifaceted and illuminating perspectives, all of them polished and ingratiating, on this memorable idea.

The first-ever recording of a work by the noted conductor Norman Del Mar (1919–94) closes this program. Del Mar wrote his Allegro Concertante for horn and strings in 1945 (later orchestrated in 1949) for his fellow horn student Dennis Brain. This eight-and-a-half-minute movement offers a lively and sometimes lissome display of contrapuntal expertise somewhat reminiscent of early Rawsthorne, and it makes a fitting capstone to a group of engaging works.

Vibrantly interpreted by a resonant and lustrous string ensemble under the expert Martin Yates, who is himself an Arnell pupil, this is a lovely disc.

FANFARE: Paul A. Snook
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Works on This Recording

Essay for orchestra No. 7 by Stephen Dodgson
Conductor:  Martin Yates
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1992 
Venue:  The Friary, Liverpool, England 
Length: 17 Minutes 0 Secs. 
Classical Variations in C for strings, Op. 1 by Richard Arnell
Conductor:  Martin Yates
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Written: 1939 
Venue:  The Friary, Liverpool, England 
Length: 11 Minutes 25 Secs. 
Allegro Concertante for horn & string orchestra, Op. 15 by Norman Del Mar
Performer:  Stephen Bell (Horn)
Conductor:  Martin Yates
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Written: 1944 
Date of Recording: 11/10/2009 
Venue:  The Colosseum, Town Hall, Watford, Engla 
Length: 8 Minutes 30 Secs. 
Variations on the Name Gabriel Fauré for Harp/Piano and Strings by Arnold Bax
Conductor:  Martin Yates
Venue:  The Friary, Liverpool, England 
Length: 0 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Symphonic Serenade by Arnold Bax
Conductor:  Martin Yates
Venue:  The Friary, Liverpool, England 
Length: 10 Minutes 42 Secs. 

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