Arthur Bliss is a hard composer to place. He maintained a very high standard of craftsmanship throughout his long career (he died at 84 in 1975, and wrote music for more than half a century), but his idiom was more "20th-century tonal English" than overtly personal. He became Master of the Queen's Musick, a position difficult for non-British listeners to take seriously, but evidently he enjoyed the job. There is, in fact, a certain heraldic quality to his writing, most evident in A Color Symphony, and there's an aristocratic fastidiousness that's quite evident in the two pieces on this disc, even when they rise to passionate climaxes.
The Meditations on a Theme by John Blow may well be Bliss' orchestral masterpiece.Read more It's a gravely beautiful piece, well-contrasted, frequently touching, and unforgettably scored. The actual tune doesn't appear in full until the end, when it emerges with unforced majesty as the inevitable culmination of the half-hour's prior journey. Metamorphic Variations, a very late piece written just a couple of years before Bliss' death, is a touch less richly colored, and it takes a while to warm up; but the work's latter half (the sequence running, in order, Polonaise, Funeral Procession, Cool Interlude, Scherzo II, Duet) is marvelous, and the gently affirmative ending is unaffectedly poetic.
David Lloyd-Jones has made several fine Bliss recordings for Naxos, and this is another. The Bournemouth Symphony plays beautifully throughout and is very well recorded. Indeed, Naxos' Bliss series represents one of the label's more noteworthy efforts on behalf of any British composer--but is anyone noticing? This series remains somewhat "under the radar", but it surely deserves the attention of all serious collectors.
Metamorphic Variations: Variation 13: Dedicated to G.D. and A.D.
Metamorphic Variations: Variation 14: Affirmation
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Very Pleasing ChoiceMarch 13, 2014By bess holloway (Boulder, CO)See All My Reviews"I am trying to establish a reasonably representative collection of British music. The name Arthur Bliss was familiar, but I could not attach it to anything musical. The extensive notes offered by the reviewer here convinced me to buy. As always, one has to live with a recording awhile to fully appreciate the value. A fine orchestra!"Report Abuse