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Harrison: Bredon Hill / Wordsworth, Bbc Concert Orchestra

Harrison / Trusler / Bbc Concert Orch / Wordsworth
Release Date: 03/20/2007 
Label:  Dutton Laboratories/Vocalion   Catalog #: 7174   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Julius HarrisonHubert Clifford
Performer:  Andrew Knight
Conductor:  Barry Wordsworth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

These are notable and surprisingly strong contributions to a richly rewarding pastoral seam in British music.

Julius Harrison has not had a very assertive presence in the gathering wave of revival of British music. Performances have not been numerous. Bredon Hill itself has been broadcast by the BBC a few times since 1980 notably by Richard Howarth and Christopher Warren Green with the Ulster Orchestra and BBC Concert. Donald Hunt and Stephen Barlow directed the BBCPO in the Worcestershire Suite during the mid-1990s. The British Music Society included the viola sonata in a cassette and CD of viola music. In 1993 we
Read more had Geoffrey Self’s fine book: Julius Harrison and the Importunate Muse (Scolar Press – now Ashgate - 1993; xii 128pp; ISBN 0 85967 2). For Harrison there was to be no Lyrita collection, no ‘Composer of the Week’, nor anything other than the occasional ‘side-show’. For him perhaps the peaks came at the end of his life when in the mid-late 1950s Sargent broadcast his Requiem and Willcocks his Mass, these being very large-scale ‘Three Choirs’ works for soloists, choir and orchestra. The present disc is therefore something of a corrective and by no means a mere gap-filler. It does not claim to be a representative selection; nor is it. There are quite a few works that await first recording including expensive projects such as those two choral works.
 
I will leave some account of the details of Harrison’s life and specifically of the life and Bredon Hill to John France’s excellent article. I have also provided a rough dictionary entry at the end of this review.
 
This Epoch disc is another feather in Mike Dutton's cap. While not quite an all-Harrison disc it's getting close. Harrison’s Worcestershire Suite is much more than a rural ramble. He was born in that county and clearly was not intent on belittling it. Across four movements, written at the end of the Great War, he delivers an impressionistic lilting haze redolent, in Redstone Rock, of Frank Bridge's Summer. Pershore Plums is bathed in the slowly oozing heat of summer. One can almost feel the warmth of farmhouse walls under a blazing sun. The composer's comments about the sight of cherry, apple and plum blossom seem spot-on. In The Ledbury Parson smocks and creaky hints of twee Shepherd Fennel and Holstian rhapsodies from Somerset and points South and North put in ephemeral appearances. However there's plenty to fend off a complete surrender to cliché. Much the same might be said of the Elgarian fancy of the Widdicombe Fair humoresque. It is nevertheless a work that coasts even more perilously close to the edge. Holst's string suites and Elgar's Serenade are close cousins to this music.
 
The Bredon Hill Rhapsody has been a steadfast if infrequent presence on BBC Radio 3. Despite all protests to the contrary this piece is fragrant with echoes of RVW's Lark Ascending and Elgar not to mention the Samuel Barber violin concerto. Matthew Trusler's slender and honeyed tone suits the work well and the orchestra know the piece as do the Ulster and BBC Welsh. It's a touching piece of delightful ‘Englishry’ and must have served powerfully when written in the depths of WWII. There are even some voluptuously Finzian moments at climax and some echoes of the Dvorák and Delius violin concertos. Bredon Hill has also been recorded by Lorraine McAslan in another fine version on Lyrita ( review; review; review) coupled with the Coleridge Taylor Violin Concerto.
 
The Prelude Music was surely influenced by Harrison's upfront and personal acquaintance with any number of opera intermezzi - he conducted enough of them as one of Carl Rosa's regulars . It is not subfusc Massenet; Harrison is a subtle creator but the roots of the work are clear enough. Some years later William Alwyn - also an admirer of the pre-Raphaelites - was to produce a work of rapturous mastery for harp and orchestra, Lyra Angelica. Even so this is voluptuous and saturated stuff with a final urgency born of Tchaikovskian passion rather than Gallic exoticism.
 
Hubert Clifford's 1943 Serenade for Strings is another defiantly English work despite Clifford's Australian roots. He had come to the ‘Old Country’ in 1930 to study with RVW. He did not return. His music in this case is gracious and pastoral-romantic and steps easily between the realms of light music and the rural idylls espoused by Butterworth, Bridge and Howells. A soulful Lento for viola and orchestra charts the territory with reflective caution - a touch of the Finzi Severn Rhapsody here, admixed with Holst's Lyric Movement. In the Molto allegro finale Clifford dashes away with the smoothing iron - Bridge comes strongly to mind. This work is not a patch on the Clifford Symphony on Chandos. However it remains a notable addition to the quiver of English pastoralism yet written with a lighter hand than usual. This charming, rather than striking, work was premiered on 8 December 1944 by the BBC Empire String Orchestra. Let's have Clifford’s Cowes Suite next - written for Clifford's friend the yachtsman Uffa Fox. What a pity that Ted Heath did not take an interest in that piece during his brief ‘Morning Cloud’ flirtation with EMI Classics in the 1970s!

The notes are by the indispensable Lewis Foreman.
 
These are notable and surprisingly strong contributions to a richly rewarding pastoral seam in British music
 
-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Brendon Hill by Julius Harrison
Conductor:  Barry Wordsworth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Concert Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942 
Length: 10 Minutes 40 Secs. 
2.
Worcestershire Suite, for orchestra by Julius Harrison
Conductor:  Barry Wordsworth
Written: 1918 
Venue:  The Colosseum, Town Hall, Watford, Hertf 
Length: 13 Minutes 20 Secs. 
3.
Troubadour Suite, for orchestra by Julius Harrison
Conductor:  Barry Wordsworth
Written: 1944 
Venue:  The Colosseum, Town Hall, Watford, Hertf 
Length: 10 Minutes 9 Secs. 
4.
Romance, a Song of Adoration, for orchestra by Julius Harrison
Conductor:  Barry Wordsworth
Written: 1930 
Venue:  The Colosseum, Town Hall, Watford, Hertf 
Length: 3 Minutes 44 Secs. 
5.
Prelude-Music, for harp & string orchestra by Julius Harrison
Performer:  Andrew Knight (Harp)
Conductor:  Barry Wordsworth
Written: 1912 
Venue:  The Colosseum, Town Hall, Watford, Hertf 
Length: 8 Minutes 31 Secs. 
6.
Widdicombe Fair, humoresque for string orchestra by Julius Harrison
Conductor:  Barry Wordsworth
Written: 1916 
Venue:  The Colosseum, Town Hall, Watford, Hertf 
Length: 2 Minutes 28 Secs. 
7.
Serenade for Strings by Hubert Clifford
Conductor:  Barry Wordsworth
Period: Modern 
Written: 1943 
Venue:  The Colosseum, Town Hall, Watford, Hertf 
Length: 17 Minutes 25 Secs. 

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