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Lambert: Summer's Last Will And Testament / Lloyd-Jones

Lambert / Burgess / Shimell / Lloyd-jones
Release Date: 09/13/2011 
Label:  Helios   Catalog #: 55388   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Constant Lambert
Performer:  William ShimellJack GibbonsSally Burgess
Conductor:  David Lloyd-Jones
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leeds Festival ChorusEnglish Northern PhilharmoniaOpera North Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The thrill of discovery awaits.

Previously released many moons ago in 1992 on CDA 66565, this marvellous recording was given a glowing review by our long-serving Classical Editor Rob Barnett in 1999. Nearly twenty years later from the original edition and we can at last put it on our shopping list at budget price as part of Hyperion’s Helios label. Low cost price does not mean a low-rent release in this case however, with Christopher Palmer’s original notes - in English, French and German - and all of the texts for The Rio Grande and
Read more Summer’s Last Will and Testament printed in full in the booklet. The recording itself still sounds a million dollars.
 
A feast of great music, opener The Rio Grande was Lambert’s greatest early popular success, like Ravel’s Bolero becoming something more of a burden than a boon over time. Influenced by revue music and jazz rhythms from America, this work has a theatrical sparkle which, mixed with tinges of the youthful Delius, creates an alchemical tapestry of brilliant and still almost overwhelmingly effective entertainment. Pianist Jack Gibbons is noted as a Gershwin specialist in the booklet, and his playing shines through the orchestra in complete idiomatic sympathy with the work as a whole, from those quicksilver touches of percussion down to the eloquence of the chorus. The central section, where “The noisy streets are empty and hushed is the town” is gorgeously atmospheric, building to one of those spine-tingling climaxes which stay with you all day.
 
Written in the middle of World War II, Aubade Héroïque is dedicated ‘to Ralph Vaughan Williams on his 70th birthday’, and opens with harmonies which recall that composer’s warm expressiveness. The piece concludes with magical passages in a quiet major key. Its heroism is one of distant poignancy, with never a hint of the triumphal.
 
Summer’s Last Will and Testament is acknowledged by some as the Lambert’s masterpiece, and I would be the last to disagree. Launched at an unfortunate moment in history just days after the death of King George V and with its themes of plague, disease and mortality, it was received poorly by the public. It languished in oblivion for many years and is still woefully neglected in the concert hall. This huge piece, Lambert’s longest in any genre, divides into two main sections. The work is based on texts by Elizabethan poet and dramatist Thomas Nashe, to whose writings Lambert was introduced by Philip Heseltine, better known as Peter Warlock. One of Lambert’s closest friends, the latter’s death in 1930 was a major motivation in the work’s creation.
 
It is not all doom and gloom, and the central Brawles movement, ‘Trip and go, heave and ho!’, is one of Lambert’s lively and dancing pieces with plenty of characteristic syncopation. The dramatic orchestral Rondo burlesca (King Pest) is also sometimes played separately, making a rousingly effective programmatic concert-piece. The true heart of the work is however in the moving restraint of movements such as ‘Fair Summer droops’ and ‘Autumn hath all the Summer’s fruitful treasure’. The combined singers of the Leeds Festival Chorus and Opera North are superbly controlled in these movements, and William Shimell’s baritone in the final funereal Saraband is very powerful. All of this combined with the superb collective and individual playing of the English Northern Philharmonia, make this first complete recording of such a superb work very much its definitive standard bearer. It’s one which would be hard to equal let alone surpass.
 
It is fascinating to see how history moves on. Christopher Palmer’s booklet notes point out the ironies of the text, and how for some “it will be impossible to listen to Summer’s Last Will in the 1990s without hearing it as a requiem for the AIDS generation.” In 2012 it’s more of a ‘take your pick’ as far as famine and disaster is concerned. A work like this will never lose its resonance with regard to the human condition and its often self-inflicted troubles. I can’t conclude better than with Rob Barnett’s words of twelve years ago: “Bereavement and loss figure eventually in all our lives. Lambert speaks eloquently and poetically of these experiences and in doing so leaves us with a work which we can all take to our hearts... This is eminently accessible and rewarding listening. The thrill of discovery awaits you.”
 
-- Dominy Clements, MusicWeb International Read less

Works on This Recording

1. Summer's last will and testament by Constant Lambert
Performer:  William Shimell (Baritone)
Conductor:  David Lloyd-Jones
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Leeds Festival Chorus,  English Northern Philharmonia,  Opera North Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932-1935; England 
Language: English 
2. Rio Grande by Constant Lambert
Performer:  Jack Gibbons (Piano), Sally Burgess (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  David Lloyd-Jones
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Northern Philharmonia,  Opera North Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1927; England 
Language: English 
3. Aubade héroïque by Constant Lambert
Conductor:  David Lloyd-Jones
Orchestra/Ensemble:  English Northern Philharmonia
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942; England 

Featured Sound Samples

The Rio Grande
Summer's Last Will and Testament: II. Madrigal con ritornelli

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Constant Lambert's eclectic tastes shown in three June 18, 2012 By F. Bayerl (Ottawa, ON) See All My Reviews "I was almost totally unfamiliar with the music of Constant Lambert, except for having the vague impression that it was of little substance. Having heard the three works on this recording, I now have a much fuller appreciation of what he could accomplish. "The Rio Grande" is a very eclectic vocal and choral treatment of a poem by Sacheverell Sitwell that has elements of percussive jazz combined with unexpected lyricism. The Aubade is a sombre work that at times reminded me of Aaron Copeland. The major work on the disc is "Summer's Last Will and Testament" and here too the watchword is eclectic, as it ranges in style from pseudo-Elizabethan to 20th century. Intriguing music. I'm not sure I like it all, but the mix is definitely provocative." Report Abuse
 Unsung Brit Composer April 27, 2012 By James Martin (Corpus Christi, TX) See All My Reviews "Of course you can find plenty about Constant Lambert in the Wiki entry, but give a listen, at least, to "Rio Grande," a work for piano and orchestra that has both working overtime in rich rhythms and startling piano passages. After only one listening, I became a fan. I hope more of Lambert's music is on the way from this superb label, doing its part to rescue brilliant music from obscurity. Bravo!" Report Abuse
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