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Salute To Percy Grainger / Gardiner, Philharmonia Orchestra

Release Date: 09/24/2010 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 4802205   Spars Code: DDD 
Number of Discs: 2 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

GRAINGER Salute to Percy Grainger Benjamin Britten 1 , Steuart Bedford 2 , John Eliot Gardiner 3 , cond; English CO; 4 Philharmonia O; 5 Ambrosian Singers; 6 Wandsworth Boys’ Ch; 7 Linden Read more Singers; 8 Peter Pears (ten 9 ); John Shirley-Quirk (bar 10 ); Anna Reynolds (mez 11 ); Viola Tunnard 12 , Benjamin Britten 13 , Percy Grainger 14 (pn); Osian Ellis (hp 15 ) DECCA ELOQUENCE 480 2205 (2 CDs: 117:52)

1,4 Shepherd’s Hey. 1,4,9 Willow, Willow. 1, 4,6 I’m 17 Come Sunday. 1,4,10 Bold William Taylor. 6 There Was a Pig Went Out to Dig. 1,4 My Robin Is to the Green Wood Gone. 1,4,9 Lord Maxwell’s Goodnight. 1,4 The Duke of Marlborough Fanfare. 12,13 Let’s Dance Gay in Green Meadow. 1,4,6 Scotch Strathspey and Reel. 9,13 The Pretty Maid Milkin’ Her Cow. 9,13 The Sprig of Thyme. 1,4 Lisbon. 1,4,6 The Lost Lady Found. 1,4,6,10 Shallow Brown. 2,4 Molly on the Shore. 2,7,8,10 Shenandoah. 2,4 Irish Tune from County Derry. 2,8,9 Brigg Fair. 2,4 Green Bushes. 2,4,10,11 Under a Bridge. 2,7 8,10 Dollar and a Half a Day. 2,4 The Merry King. 9,15 6 Dukes Went A-fishin’. 2,7,8,10 Stormy. 2,4,8,9 The 3 Ravens. 2,4,11 Died for Love. 14 Country Gardens. 2,4,9 The Power of Love. 2,4,7 The Hunter in His Career. 3,5 The Warriors

When Percy Grainger died in 1961, he was already in eclipse. The New York Times obituary, has-beening him as “once a familiar sight on the American concert scene,” gave short shrift to his compositions, calling his style “conservative,” and emphasizing his most popular confections like Country Gardens, Molly on the Shore , and Shepherd’s Hey . At the time, few were likely to resist the NYT’ s assessment. Recordings were scarce—and except for one enterprising disc by Frederick Fennell, they did little to counteract his reputation as an outdated purveyor of faded pops trifles.

For many listeners, the 1969 LP Salute to Percy Grainger brought about a radical paradigm shift. Not only did it provide a greater sense of Grainger’s range, but coming with the imprimatur of Benjamin Britten, it also challenged the notion that Grainger was to be taken lightly. That LP was supplemented in 1978 with a second volume under the direction of Steuart Bedford (with Grainger’s own 1927 performance of Country Gardens as a bonus); both records, filled out with John Eliot Gardiner’s 1994 recording of The Warriors , are included on this new double-set from Eloquence.

Now that we have around 20 volumes in the (stalled?) Chandos Grainger series, now that we have the complete Jungle Book from Polyphony, now that we have exceptional Grainger recordings from Hamelin, Lane, Rattle, and Gardiner, special pleading is no longer necessary. Even apart from their historical importance, however, these recordings offer plenty to listeners. For starters, the collection offers tremendous variety, from the jokey ( Country Gardens ) to the angry ( Dollar and a Half a Day ), from the stark (the voice and harp performance of the painful Six Dukes ) to the lush (the nearly Delian My Robin ), from the elegant ( Willow Willow ) to the inebriated ( Scotch Strathspey and Reel ), from the proto-Minimalist ( Let’s Dance ) to the over-the-top extravagant ( The Warriors ). Then, too, the performances are first-rate. Granted, by the time Peter Pears reached his late-50s, his voice lacked the luminous purity needed for Sprig of Thyme (see Henry Fogel’s comments about his Idomeneo , recorded at about the same time, in Fanfare 32:5); and as is the case with many Grainger recordings, especially from England, the superficial polish of the performances sometimes diminishes the music’s roughneck spirit. But who could complain about Britten’s sympathetic treatment of the whimsical changes in color, texture, and especially articulation in Shepherd’s Hey ? Or about John Shirley-Quirk’s dark bitterness in Shallow Brown ? Or about Bedford’s deft treatment of the weird, almost hallucinatory, intensity of The Power of Love ? Or about the English Chamber Orchestra’s vitally pungent wind sonority in Lisbon?

The sound has held up well, and the release comes with notes (including an appreciation by Pears) and texts. Warmly recommended.

FANFARE: Peter J. Rabinowitz
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