...[Thea King's] recordings are a treasure trove of material in both the orchestral and chamber music genres and demonstrate Dame Thea’s interest not only in rare 18th and 19th century repertoire, but also in 20th-century material, in particular that from the British Isles... [T]he anthology of Howells, Cooke, Maconchy, et al, represents a re-release of a recording issued on CD in 1991. Each of the composers possessed their own unique gifts. The forms of expression include the idyllic and quintessential English Romanticism found in...Herbert Howells (1892–1983), and via an arrangement by Josef Holbrooke (1878–1958) of his song Eilean Shonah, the music moves toward new and different forms of artistic expression... Maconchy’s quintet displaysRead more what annotator Christopher Palmer called “a ruder, earthier aspect,” and Cooke’s effort reveals a keen sense of structural integrity with a strong emphasis on line, both hallmarks of his mentor. The musical personalities and approaches to composition...vary, but each of the works possesses its own set of merits and challenges for the participants, and each is successful in its endeavor to offer an artistically superior and musically satisfying canvas.
The performances are models of their kind, and even though they date from as long as two decades ago, they have an air of artistic and technical superiority that is yet to be— and may never be—surpassed. Dame Thea King plays with unswerving authority and at times an almost volcanic fervor that is beautifully wedded to an exceptional sense of balance and enviable poise. She is clearly in charge from beginning to end, has a warm, rich, and woody tone, and offers seamless execution that perfectly accentuates the kaleidoscopic array of the shifting moods found in these works. The Aeolian and Britten quartets support and complement Dame Thea’s unlabored performances with clearly defined and masterfully blended readings exemplified by erudition, instinct, and pellucidity. If that’s not convincing enough for you, Hyperion’s fabled exquisite and full-blooded recorded sound is another feather in the cap of these wonderful and revelatory discs. What are you waiting for?
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