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Foulds: Dynamic Triptych, Etc / Oramo, Donohoe, Et Al


Release Date: 05/23/2006 
Label:  Warner Classics   Catalog #: 62999   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  John Foulds
Performer:  Peter Donohoe
Conductor:  Sakari Oramo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



FOULDS Dynamic Triptych . 1 April-England. Music-Pictures Group III. The Song of Ram Dass. Keltic Lament, op. 29/2 ? Sakari Oramo, cond; Peter Donohoe (pn); 1 City of Birmingham SO ? WARNER 62999 (61:03)


Oramo leads his Birmingham Orchestra in a second album of orchestral music by the Englishman John Read more Foulds, following the success of his first (Warner Classics 61525). That album contained the ?Three Mantras? from Avatara , one of the composer?s acknowledged masterpieces, and the current CD includes another: the Dynamic Triptych for piano and orchestra. Both these works, plus April-England (?Impressions of Time and Place,? No. 1) have been recorded before, but there is no question that Oramo?s recordings are the finest yet given to this hitherto obscure figure.


For decades after his death, Foulds was remembered (and dimly at that) for his light music. In the 1920s, he wrote incidental music for plays by J. M. Barrie and others, the most notable being his score for the original production of Bernard Shaw?s St. Joan . Less of an outsider than his friend Havergal Brian but still something of a maverick, Foulds migrated to Paris with his family, where he became famous for his piano accompaniments to silent movies, and finally settled in India in 1935. There, while running the Calcutta Station for All-India Radio in New Delhi, he found his muse reinvigorated and wrote several works, including Sappho (an ode for orchestra), Symphonic Studies for String Orchestra, and a large scale Symphony of East and West , all of which have since been lost. Foulds died from cholera in 1939 at the age of 58.


As a composer, Foulds has something for everyone. Some of his earlier works tap into the English pastoral school?a clear influence in the Music-Pictures Group III , inspired by a series of paintings?and I hear a hint of the lighter Elgar, possibly even Edward German, in the tone poem April-England . This, after all, was the world into which Foulds was born. However, he also had a bold experimental side, most apparent in his use of quarter tones in the string-writing in the second movement of the Triptych . (He employs this sliding microtonal texture exclusively for color here, whereas the device has a structural role in his contemporaneous string quartet, the Quartet Intimo .)


Foulds formed an interest in the music and culture of India, which inspired him much as it did the late work of his contemporary Holst. The elegant Song of Ram Dass is an early instance?written in Foulds?s first year of residence in New Delhi, it is less steeped in genuine ethnomusical turns of phrase than his later work would become (apparently?as I said, most of it has failed to resurface).


The Dynamic Triptych, op. 88, is a piano concerto by another name. The ?dynamics? explored in each of the three movements are mode, timbre, and rhythm respectively. The first movement is so exciting and packed with ideas, it is surprising to discover that it is based entirely on a seven-note scale. Texture is to the fore in the slow movement, displaying Foulds?s finesse as an orchestrator (which left many of his English contemporaries in the shade). For the third movement he builds a toccata-finale from the additive rhythmic pattern of 2/4 plus 3/4 plus 4/4. The work, composed in Paris from 1927 to 1930, was cutting edge in many ways for its time and still fascinates, particularly in this performance. Dynamic in every sense, the work is the perfect vehicle for Peter Donohoe?s muscular pianism, and he plays it for all it is worth: just listen to the scintillating scale passages in the third movement or the powerful resonating chords that anchor the sliding string textures in the second. Oramo and the Birmingham orchestra are responsive to every nuance, producing a shining brilliance to match Donohoe?s vigor. Also, the microtonal passages don?t sound queasy here as they tend to do in the previous recording; a tribute to the strings? unanimity of intonation. The Triptych was recorded in 1984 by Lyrita, in an excellent performance by Howard Shelley and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Vernon Handley. (Its coupling is the Piano Concerto of Vaughan Williams, my favorite rendition of that lovely work.) Well as these distinguished musicians play the Foulds Triptych , there is an understandable sense of caution in their approach to what was then totally unknown music. Oramo and Donohoe knock a good five minutes off Handley?s timing and are more robust in a work that is a virtuoso outing for composer and pianist both. (Donohoe claims the piano part does not always ?fall easily under the fingers.? You?d never know!) Balance and sound quality are first class.


Oramo?s bright performance of April?England also trumps the untypically pedestrian one by Marriner and St. Martin in the Fields on an English music compilation (Philips 454 444). So, bravo to Warner Classics, not least for continuing the production of unusual and interesting new releases that was such a vital part of the Erato and Teldec companies Warner subsumed. Both of Oramo?s Foulds CDs are mandatory acquisitions.


FANFARE: Phillip Scott
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Works on This Recording

1.
Dynamic Triptych by John Foulds
Performer:  Peter Donohoe (Piano)
Conductor:  Sakari Oramo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: circa 1925; England 
Venue:  Symphony Hall, Birmingham 
Length: 25 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Notes: Symphony Hall, Birmingham (01/11/2006 - 01/16/2006) 
2.
April-England, Op. 48 no 1 by John Foulds
Performer:  Peter Donohoe (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1926; England 
Venue:  Symphony Hall, Birmingham, England 
Length: 7 Minutes 56 Secs. 
Notes: Symphony Hall, Birmingham, England (01/11/2006 - 01/16/2006) 
3.
Music-Pictures Group III, Op. 33 by John Foulds
Conductor:  Sakari Oramo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912; England 
Venue:  Symphony Hall, Birmingham 
Length: 19 Minutes 6 Secs. 
Notes: Symphony Hall, Birmingham (01/11/2006 - 01/16/2006) 
4.
The Song of Ram Dass by John Foulds
Conductor:  Sakari Oramo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1935; India 
Venue:  Symphony Hall, Birmingham 
Length: 3 Minutes 13 Secs. 
Notes: Symphony Hall, Birmingham (01/11/2006 - 01/16/2006) 
5.
Keltic Suite, Op. 29: Keltic Lament by John Foulds
Conductor:  Sakari Oramo
Orchestra/Ensemble:  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911; England 
Venue:  Symphony Hall, Birmingham 
Length: 4 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Notes: Symphony Hall, Birmingham (01/11/2006 - 01/16/2006) 

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