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British Composers - Delius, Howells, Hadley

British Composers: Delius Howells & Hadley / Var
Release Date: 05/03/2011 
Label:  Emi Classics   Catalog #: 95405   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Frederick DeliusHerbert HowellsPatrick Hadley
Performer:  Helen WattsHeather HarperRobert TearBenjamin Luxon,   ... 
Conductor:  Sir Charles GrovesSir David WillcocksSir Adrian Boult
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic OrchestraRoyal Liverpool Philharmonic ChoirRoyal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra,   ... 
Number of Discs: 5 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

"The final 5 disc volume has Delius in the limelight. This is the Delius of the big choral sound rather than the orchestral miniatures.
 
Disc 1 leads us with effortless honey into the Songs of Sunset in Groves’ 1968 Liverpool version. These Dowson settings are still affecting not least when Baker and Shirley-Quirk duet. The Danish-inspired cloud-hung An Arabesque works well leading to the start of A Mass of Life, another Groves product, this time with the LPO. The singing is lovely and sheer but lacks the impact of later versions including the much earlier though unrefined Beecham (Sony and Pristine) – electric! - and the Del Mar off-air recording which sports none other than the young Kiri
Read more Te Kanawa as the soprano. Still it is wonderful again to hear Heather Harper – she who made such a memorably voluptuous event of the Chandos recording of Harty’s Ode on a Grecian Urn. Groves is very good indeed and richly enjoyable but for that turbo-charge you need to hear Beecham and Del Mar.
 
After two discs of rapturously saturated choral and vocal tone CD 3 offers us some remission and relaxation. This in the shape of three chamber works. First there’s the Howells Fantasy String Quartet – also recorded by the Richards Quartet on Lyrita. His chamber works of the 1910s and 1920s are the intensified quintessence of pastoral ecstasy. Then comes the String Quartet No. 3 In Gloucestershire. Howells faces a greater challenge to sustain the folksy language across half an hour and four movements. This is brought off with frictionless celerity and emotional fluency by the Britten Quartet. The sound places the music directly in front of you. By comparison the earlier Hyperion version (Divertimenti), intrinsically every bit as good, gives the listener more space and light. The Delius String Quartet is similarly warm and flowing and has more of a sense of movement than you might expect. The luscious sound compares well with the still pleasing Fitzwilliam version on Eloquence. The blousy glancing charm of the finale registers very pleasingly indeed. Lovely!
 
More Howells follows and takes us back to the big themes and massed forces. We start with Hymnus Paradisi in the classic Willcocks analogue recording from the 1960s. It’s a most ambitious and moving work axiomatically written ‘from the heart’ yet not so passionate that it loses focus. The focus is laser sharp throughout. The emotional velocity and stopping power is devastating; more accurately its power to speak with balm and transcendence to the soul brooks and needs no explanation. The hairs on the nape of the neck rise with the light-filled words “passing wonderful” at 4:47. Howells was to return to such realms again in Missa Sabrinensis and in doing so must surely have been inspired by the dazzle of the empowered choral singing in A Mass of Life. After Hymnus we come to the Concerto for String Orchestra conducted by Boult. It streams with sun-filled energy and laments deeply making it a confident companion to Elgar Introduction and Allegro, RVW Tallis Fantasia, Bliss Music for Strings and Tippett Concerto for Double String Orchestra.
 
Patrick Hadley forms the last partner in the stylistic triumvirate. Indeed Hadley presided over performances of large-scale Delius works at Cambridge including prophetically, Song of the High Hills. First we hear two very short pieces for choir and orchestra. These serve to confirm Hadley’s sensitivity to word-setting with the rapturous My beloved spake and the understated ecstasy of I sing of a maiden – a Christmastide text also favoured by Bax. The Hills is one of Hadley’s big secular works. The Trees So High is on Lyrita and Fen and Flood has just been recorded by Albion in RVW’s arrangement for mixed voices and orchestras. That leaves the cantata Connemara, La Belle Dame Sans Merci and Ephemera. The orchestration is super-fine and steely. We are the Hills reveals again that debt to the lofty ecstasy of Delius but the words keep earthing us with the young couple. “Now climb on, climb on aloft together …. Higher now we climb!” has a euphoric Puccinian kick. The orchestra explodes in ecstasy at 1:23 and the final eruption lifts the roof off recalling a similar end of movement moment in Elgar’s Second Symphony. In Taxal Woods is a dreamy love scene duet – not to be missed. The Wedding Scene ripples with energy. Nonsense words scatter happiness and excitement left and right. The couple’s life is rounded with a sleep and their spirits meet again under the beatitude of the Derbyshire hills; the very same hills that saw their first love."

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1. A Mass of Life by Frederick Delius
Performer:  Helen Watts (Alto), Heather Harper (Soprano), Robert Tear (Tenor),
Benjamin Luxon (Baritone)
Conductor:  Sir Charles Groves
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra,  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1904-1908; France 
Date of Recording: 03/1971 
Venue:  Kingsway Hall, London 
Length: 99 Minutes 57 Secs. 
Language: English 
2. Songs of Sunset by Frederick Delius
Performer:  John Shirley-Quirk (Baritone), Dame Janet Baker (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Sir Charles Groves
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra,  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1906-1907; France 
Date of Recording: 06/1968 
Venue:  Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool 
Length: 29 Minutes 34 Secs. 
Language: English 
3. Arabesque by Frederick Delius
Performer:  John Shirley-Quirk (Baritone)
Conductor:  Sir Charles Groves
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra,  Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1911; France 
Date of Recording: 06/26/1968 
Venue:  Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool 
Length: 11 Minutes 38 Secs. 
Language: English 
4. Hymnus Paradisi by Herbert Howells
Performer:  Robert Tear (Tenor), Heather Harper (Soprano)
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bach Choir,  New Philharmonia Orchestra,  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938; England 
5. Concerto for Strings by Herbert Howells
Conductor:  Sir Adrian Boult
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1939; England 
6. My beloved spake by Patrick Hadley
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1936; England 
7. I sing of a maiden by Patrick Hadley
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: by 1936; England 
8. The Hills by Patrick Hadley
Performer:  Robert Lloyd (Bass), Robert Tear (Tenor), Felicity Palmer (Soprano)
Conductor:  Sir David Willcocks
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Cambridge King's College Choir
Period: 20th Century 
9. Quartet for Strings "Phantasy" by Herbert Howells
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Britten String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1918; England 
10. Quartet for Strings "In Gloucestershire" by Herbert Howells
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Britten String Quartet
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1923; England 
11. Quartet for Strings [1916] by Frederick Delius
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Britten String Quartet

Sound Samples

Songs of Sunset (1992 Digital Remaster): A song of the setting sun (Quietly) -
Songs of Sunset (1992 Digital Remaster): Cease smiling, dear! (with easy movement) -
Songs of Sunset (1992 Digital Remaster): Pale amber moonlight falls (Slow)
Songs of Sunset (1992 Digital Remaster): Exceeding sorrow consumeth my sad heart (Con tristezza. Not too slow) -
Songs of Sunset (1992 Digital Remaster): By the sad waters of separation (with quiet movement)
Songs of Sunset (1992 Digital Remaster): See how the trees (Freshly) -
Songs of Sunset (1992 Digital Remaster): I was not sorrowful (Very quietly but not too slow) -
Songs of Sunset (1992 Digital Remaster): They are not long, the weeping and the laughter (Quietly)
Arabesque (1992 Digital Remaster)
Eine Messe des Lebens (1992 Digital Remaster), FIRST PART: I. 'O Du mein Wille!' (Animato, con fervore)
Eine Messe des Lebens (1992 Digital Remaster), FIRST PART: II. 'Erhebt eure Herzen' (Recit: Animoso, con alcuna licenza)
Eine Messe des Lebens (1992 Digital Remaster), FIRST PART: III. 'In dein Auge schaute ich jüngst' (Andante tranquillo con dolcezza)
Eine Messe des Lebens (1992 Digital Remaster), FIRST PART: IV. 'Wehe mir!' (Agitato ma moderato)
Eine Messe des Lebens (1992 Digital Remaster), FIRST PART: V. 'Nacht ist es' (Andante molto tranquillo)
Eine Messe des Lebens (1992 Digital Remaster), SECOND PART: Auf den Bergen (On the Mountains) (Andante) (Orchestra)
Eine Messe des Lebens (1992 Digital Remaster), SECOND PART: I. 'Herauf! nun herauf!' (Con elevazione e vigore)
Eine Messe des Lebens (1992 Digital Remaster), SECOND PART: II. 'Süße Leier!' (Andante)
Eine Messe des Lebens (1992 Digital Remaster), SECOND PART: III. Lento (Orchestra) -
Eine Messe des Lebens (1992 Digital Remaster), SECOND PART: 'La la la'
Eine Messe des Lebens (1992 Digital Remaster), SECOND PART: IV. 'Heißer Mittag schläft' (Lento molto)
Eine Messe des Lebens (1992 Digital Remaster), SECOND PART: V. 'Gottes Weh ist tiefer' (Allegro ma non tropp, con gravità) -
Eine Messe des Lebens (1992 Digital Remaster), SECOND PART: VI. 'Kommt! Laßt uns jetzo wandelnl' (Largo, con solennità)

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