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Best Of British - The Nation's Favourite Classical Music

Best Of British / Various
Release Date: 09/28/2010 
Label:  Warner Classics   Catalog #: 31600   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Ralph Vaughan WilliamsGustav HolstSir Edward ElgarGeorge Frideric Handel,   ... 
Performer:  David NolanRobert CohenPaul BenistonColin Chambers,   ... 
Conductor:  Vernon HandleySimon RattleNorman Del MarSir Charles Mackerras,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Virtuosi of England
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 3 Hours 52 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The title Best of British is somewhat of a misnomer for, apart from Welshman Karl Jenkins, all the music is by Englishmen. Men at that, not a female composer in sight. But what about Scotland? Where’s Hamish MacCunn’s magnificent Overture, The Land of the Mountain and the Flood? And what about Ireland? A bit more difficult this, I imagine, but Hamilton Harty’s The Fair Day should have been included, but With the Wild Geese would have been even better. I realise that the content of the CDs is based on whatever is in EMI’s vaults, so as Read more there are many representative composers from Wales, Scotland and Ireland who have not been recorded by EMI their omission is obvious, but it still doesn’t account for the collection being predominantly English. However, I never complain for long when English music is on offer, and this is a lovely collection which I played through the minute I got the polythene wrapping off the box.
 
This is a very interesting compilation. A decision must have been made that some of EMI’s best recordings were going to be included. Thus, of the eleven Handel excerpts, we have two from Mackerras’s 1967 recording of Messiah, still one of the best, a fine Zadok the Priest from King’s, Stephen Cleobury’s arrangement of Thine be the glory, a spritely Queen of Sheba from Owain Arwel Hughes and, best of all, six pieces from the Water and Fireworks Musics with the Virtuosi of England under Arthur Davison.
 
Elgar is given nine pieces, and quite right too, not least because EMI has recorded much Elgar over the years. The two excerpts from Gerontius sound very well, with a young Janet Baker in wonderful voice with Glorious John at the helm. Lawrence Collingwood’s 1964 accounts of the two salon pieces are most welcome. Nimrod, and the Larghetto, from the Serenade, both by Boult, and the Adagio from the Cello Concerto, in the much underrated Robert Cohen performance, bring some gravity to the proceedings. Land of Hope and Glory is given in its original from, from the Coronation Ode, in a full-blooded performance under Philip Ledger and Vernon Handley’s 4thPomp and Circumstance March is straightforward and most enjoyable.
 
Vaughan Williams, who, for some, is the quintessence of English music is lucky enough to have four complete works in this collection. David Nolan is a sweet-voiced soloist in The Lark Ascending, the Tallis Fantasia is beautifully paced, the Greensleeves Fantasia is delightful, and everybody lets their hair down for the March (Seventeen Come Sunday), all under Handley. Hickox directs easy-going performances of the Variants on Dives and Lazarus and Rhosymedre.
 
Karl Jenkins might seem to be a strange choice for this set but his four pieces go to show just what a variety of work has been created in the last century in Britain. Adiemus made Jenkins’s name and he has followed this success with some big choral and orchestral pieces, from which we have three excerpts.
 
With Walton we’re back on familiar territory. I am very happy that it was Boult’s recording of Crown Imperial which was chosen for this is the longer, first version, of the score. It is a very resplendent piece of work, both from composer and performer. Frémaux and Groves give fine performances of the Popular Song and the affecting Touch her soft lips and part.
 
John Rutter has written some of the most attractive and approachable music of the past 40 years. But that’s not to say that he hasn’t created some works of a deeper, personal, nature. His Requiem is a superb work, and it succeeds because it is unpretentious and speaks directly to the heart. I am sad that there was only room for the Requiem aeternam from this piece. A Gaelic Blessing is a gentle benediction which receives an understated performance from John Scott and his musicians.
 
Now we are left with nine composers, each represented by one work. The Warsaw Concerto has transcended its wartime film origins and can take its place proudly in this collection. In fact, it’s only one of two concerted works here! Daniel Adni is a fine soloist and plays it as the romantic concert piece it so obviously is. EMI recorded quite a lot of Malcolm Arnold over the years and I think that he deserved more than the first dance from the 2ndSet of English Dances, but it’s here, I suppose, because many will recognise it as being the title music for the TV, now Radio, programme What the Papers Say. The same is true of Britten and the Sentimental Saraband, from the Simple Symphony doesn’t really do him any favours by its inclusion.
 
Butterworth’s The Banks of Green Willow is given in a lovely performance under Neville Dilkes and Groves gives an heroic account of Coates’s The Dam Busters March. As you’d expect, Delius, the nature poet next; and Hickox directs a suitably flowing and gentle account of On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring. It’s a shame that Holst is only represented by an excerpt from The Planets. Admittedly it’s a fine piece but EMI has much to choose from and here, surely, was a miscalculation. Likewise Parry. Jerusalem is a great tune - far too good to be the National Anthem but, again, EMI has a couple of short orchestral works which I would have preferred. Finally, Spem in Alium, is one of the glories of British Church music, if not of British music in general. This is perfection. The members of the Tavener Choir excel themselves here.  
 
I really enjoyed this collection, no matter what reservations I may have about some of the pieces chosen, it’s a pleasant and interesting walk through the music of part of our country; sorry Scotland and Ireland. Despite ranging in time from 1964 to 2003, the recordings stand well side by side, are clean and clear and with a wide dynamic range, and one would never guess their provenance. There are no notes, just a list of contents, but no matter for they aren’t really necessary.
 
I suppose that this is aimed at the Classic FM listener, or someone who doesn’t want a complete work but is happy with a bit of this and a bit of that. However, it might just make some investigate the complete works and that is no bad thing.
 
-- Bob Briggs, MusicWeb International Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
The lark ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  David Nolan (Violin)
Conductor:  Vernon Handley
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914/1920; England 
Length: 14 Minutes 52 Secs. 
2.
The Planets, Op. 32/H 125: Jupiter by Gustav Holst
Conductor:  Simon Rattle
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1914-1916; England 
Length: 8 Minutes 5 Secs. 
3.
Concerto for Cello in E minor, Op. 85: 3rd movement, Adagio by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Robert Cohen (Cello)
Conductor:  Norman Del Mar
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1919; England 
Length: 5 Minutes 6 Secs. 
4.
Messiah, HWV 56: Hallelujah! by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1742; London, England 
Length: 4 Minutes 2 Secs. 
5.
Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36 "Enigma": Variation 9, Nimrod by Sir Edward Elgar
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1898-1899; England 
Length: 3 Minutes 55 Secs. 
6.
Water Music Suite no 1 in F major, HWV 348: no 6, Air by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Arthur Davison
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Virtuosi of England
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715-1717; London, England 
Length: 4 Minutes 13 Secs. 
7.
A Mass for Peace "The Armed Man": Agnus Dei by Karl Jenkins
Performer:  Paul Beniston (Trumpet)
Conductor:  Karl Jenkins
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1999; England 
Length: 3 Minutes 39 Secs. 
8.
Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Vernon Handley
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1910/1919; England 
Length: 14 Minutes 43 Secs. 
9.
Messiah, HWV 56: For unto us a child is born by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Sir Charles Mackerras
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1742; London, England 
Length: 4 Minutes 18 Secs. 
10.
Fantasia on Greensleeves by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Performer:  Colin Chambers (Flute), Mair Jones (Harp)
Conductor:  Vernon Handley
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934; England 
Length: 4 Minutes 10 Secs. 
11.
Pomp and Circumstance Marches (5), Op. 39: no 4 in G major by Sir Edward Elgar
Conductor:  Vernon Handley
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1907; England 
Length: 4 Minutes 47 Secs. 
12.
The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38: Softly and Gently "Angel's Farewell" by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Dame Janet Baker ()
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1899-1900; England 
Length: 6 Minutes 55 Secs. 
13.
Juda Maccabeus, oratorio by Sylvie Bodorová
Performer:  Thomas Williamson (Organ)
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Written: 2002 
Length: 2 Minutes 58 Secs. 
14.
Variants (5) of 'Dives and Lazarus' by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Richard Hickox
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; England 
Length: 10 Minutes 36 Secs. 
15.
Coronation Anthems (4): no 1, HWV 258 "Zadok the priest" by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Sir Philip Ledger
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1727; London, England 
Length: 6 Minutes 7 Secs. 
16.
Banks of Green Willow by George Butterworth
Conductor:  Neville Dilkes
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1913; England 
Length: 6 Minutes 7 Secs. 
17.
A Gaelic Blessing by John Rutter
Performer:  Andrew Lucas (Organ)
Conductor:  John Scott
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Length: 1 Minutes 49 Secs. 
18.
The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38: Praise to the holiest (conclusion) by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Dame Janet Baker ()
Conductor:  Sir John Barbirolli
Period: Post-Romantic 
Written: 1900 
Length: 8 Minutes 16 Secs. 
19.
Water Music Suite no 1 in F major, HWV 348: no 7, Bourée by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Arthur Davison
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Virtuosi of England
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715-1717; London, England 
Length: 2 Minutes 27 Secs. 
20.
Preludes on Welsh Hymn Tunes (3) for Organ: no 2, Rhosymedre by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Richard Hickox
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1920; England 
Length: 4 Minutes 11 Secs. 
21.
Jerusalem by Charles Hubert Parry
Conductor:  Owain Arwel Hughes
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1916; England 
Length: 2 Minutes 48 Secs. 
22.
Solomon, HWV 67: Arrival of the Queen of Sheba by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Owain Arwel Hughes
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1749; London, England 
Length: 3 Minutes 26 Secs. 
23.
Spem in alium by Thomas Tallis
Performer:  Wim Becu (Bass Sackbut), Alan Wilson (Organ), USA] Paul Nicholson [Choral (Organ)
Conductor:  Andrew Parrott
Period: Renaissance 
Written: after 1559; England 
Length: 10 Minutes 17 Secs. 
24.
Water Music Suite no 2 in D major, HWV 349: no 2, Alla Hornpipe by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Arthur Davison
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Virtuosi of England
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715-1717; London, England 
Length: 3 Minutes 19 Secs. 
25.
Songs of Sanctuary: Adiemus by Karl Jenkins
Performer:  Mike Taylor (Quena), Mary Carewe (Voice), Miriam Stockley (Voice)
Conductor:  Karl Jenkins
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1994; England 
Length: 3 Minutes 59 Secs. 
26.
Coronation March "Crown Imperial" by Sir William Walton
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1937; England 
Length: 8 Minutes 33 Secs. 
27.
English Folk Song Suite: no 1, March "Seventeen Come Sunday" by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Conductor:  Vernon Handley
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923; England 
Length: 3 Minutes 9 Secs. 
28.
Requiem: Requiem aeternam by John Rutter
Conductor:  Stephen Cleobury
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1985; England 
Length: 5 Minutes 36 Secs. 
29.
Chanson de matin, Op. 15 no 2 by Sir Edward Elgar
Conductor:  Lawrence Collingwood
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1897; England 
Length: 3 Minutes 37 Secs. 
30.
Water Music Suite no 2 in D major, HWV 349: no 5, Bourée by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Arthur Davison
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Virtuosi of England
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1715-1717; London, England 
Length: 1 Minutes 32 Secs. 
31.
The Dam Busters by Eric Coates
Conductor:  Sir Charles Groves
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1955; England 
Length: 3 Minutes 56 Secs. 
32.
Requiem: In paradisum by Karl Jenkins
Performer:  Catrin Finch (Harp)
Conductor:  Karl Jenkins
Period: 20th Century 
Written: England 
Length: 5 Minutes 23 Secs. 
33.
Music for the Royal Fireworks, HWV 351: no 4, Réjouissance by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Arthur Davison
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Virtuosi of England
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1749; London, England 
Length: 2 Minutes 12 Secs. 
34.
Simple Symphony for Strings, Op. 4: 3rd movement, Sentimental Sarabande by Benjamin Britten
Conductor:  Sir Neville Marriner
Written: 1933-1934; England 
Length: 7 Minutes 8 Secs. 
35.
Warsaw Concerto by Richard Addinsell
Performer:  Daniel Adni (Piano)
Conductor:  Kenneth Alwyn
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1941; England 
Length: 8 Minutes 56 Secs. 
36.
Serenade for Strings in E minor, Op. 20: 2nd movement, Larghetto by Sir Edward Elgar
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892; England 
Length: 5 Minutes 23 Secs. 
37.
Music for the Royal Fireworks: Minuets 1 & 2 by George Frideric Handel
Conductor:  Arthur Davison
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Virtuosi of England
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1749; England 
Length: 2 Minutes 22 Secs. 
38.
A Mass for Peace "The Armed Man": Benedictus by Karl Jenkins
Performer:  Guy Johnston (Cello)
Conductor:  Karl Jenkins
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1999; England 
Length: 7 Minutes 36 Secs. 
39.
Salut d'amour, Op. 12 by Sir Edward Elgar
Conductor:  Lawrence Collingwood
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1888/1889; England 
Length: 3 Minutes 49 Secs. 
40.
Pieces (2) for Small Orchestra: no 1, On Hearing the First Cuckoo by Frederick Delius
Conductor:  Richard Hickox
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1912; France 
Length: 6 Minutes 5 Secs. 
41.
Façade: Suite no 2 - Popular Song by Sir William Walton
Conductor:  Louis Frémaux
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1938; England 
Length: 2 Minutes 17 Secs. 
42.
Henry V: Orchestral Suite - no 4, Touch her soft lips and part by Sir William Walton
Conductor:  Sir Charles Groves
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943-1944; England 
Length: 1 Minutes 52 Secs. 
43.
Coronation Ode, Op. 44: Land of Hope and Glory by Sir Edward Elgar
Performer:  Felicity Lott (), Richard Morton (), Stephen Roberts ()
Conductor:  Sir Philip Ledger
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1901-1902; England 
Length: 4 Minutes 32 Secs. 
44.
English Dances (4), Op. 33: no 1, Allegro non troppo by Malcolm Arnold
Conductor:  Sir Charles Groves
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1951; England 
Length: 3 Minutes 9 Secs. 

Sound Samples

The Lark Ascending
The Planets - Suite H125 (Op. 32): 4. Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity (Allegro giocoso)
Cello Concerto in E minor Op. 85 (1998 Digital Remaster): III. Adagio
Messiah HWV56 (1987 Digital Remaster), PART 2: Hallelujah (chorus: Allegro)
Variations on an Original Theme, 'Enigma' Op. 36 (1986 Digital Remaster): IX. Nimrod
Water Music (1987 Digital Remaster), Suite in F: Air
Agnus Dei
Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
Messiah HWV56 (1987 Digital Remaster), PART 1: For unto us a child is born (chorus: Andante allegro)
Fantasia on 'Greensleeves'
Pomp and Circumstance - Military Marches Op. 39: No. 4 in G
The Dream of Gerontius Op. 38 (1999 Digital Remaster), Part II: Softly and gently (Angel, chorus, semi-chorus)
Thine be the glory (Maccabaeus)
Five Variants of 'Dives and Lazarus'
Coronation Anthems (1727): Zadok the Priest HWV 258
The Banks of Green Willow - Idyll for orchestra (1988 Digital Remaster)
A Gaelic Blessing (words adapted from an old Gaelic rune)
English Dances - Set II Op. 33 (1998 Digital Remaster): 5. Allegro non troppo
The Dream of Gerontius Op. 38 (1999 Digital Remaster), Part II: But hark! a grand mysterious harmony (Soul, Angel, chorus)
Water Music (1987 Digital Remaster), Suite in F: Bourrée
Three Preludes Founded on Welsh Hymn Tunes (orch. Arnold Foster): 2. Rhosymedre (melody by J. D. Edwards, 1805-1885)
Jerusalem
Solomon HWV67: Sinfonia (The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba)
Spem in alium .
Water Music (1987 Digital Remaster), Suite in D: Alla Hornpipe
Adiemus
Crown Imperial - Coronation March (1937) (1995 Digital Remaster)

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