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Britten: Choral Dances; Bliss, Holst / Wetton, Hill, Et Al

Release Date: 10/09/2001 
Label:  Helios   Catalog #: 55050   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Benjamin BrittenGustav HolstSir Arthur Bliss
Performer:  Thelma OwenMartyn HillShirley MintyJudith Pearce
Conductor:  Hilary Davan Wetton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Holst SingersHolst Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 1 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Contemplation of Sicily's Fountain of Arethusa in earlier times inspired Szymanowski, and in more recent times (1928) Arthur Bliss. But Bliss's inspiration must surely have been the Mediterranean as a whole, rather than that particularly static fountain (more like a spring, I have always thought); for it is the warmth and glitter of the wider setting which are reflected in this Pastoral. The white flocks are of course those of mountainside sheep; and where there are sheep there are shepherds; and where there are shepherds there are nymphs (in poetry, anyway; in real life there must be long periods of wishful thinking). These particular nymphs and shepherds are celebrating the spring holiday in honour of Pan, their god and protector; and in Read more the course of the day Bliss arranges that they should sing and play music which is often enchanting.

To this Pan himself contributes a great deal, his pipes represented by today's flute (and on one occasion piccolo), and his person by Judith Pierce, whose playing contributes greatly to the air of enchantment. So does the singing of the Holst Singers, who give the choral sections of the music (substantially the greater part) quite ideally— modest in scale, and always expressive. Shirley Minty, too, contributes well, although in a less forward position she might have sounded more like a single shepherdess momentarily baring her individual heart. The strings of the Holst Orchestra also play well, though sometimes sounding relatively thin in the middle—again, perhaps a balance problem. The two mild reservations should in no way dissuade a reader intent primarily on Bliss's music: many regard this Pastoral as a small masterpiece, and I am very much inclined to agree with them.

The Pastoral plays for about 35 minutes, yet, very happily, is contained on one side of the record. The other is devoted to two pieces that are ideally suitable for their content. Britten's Gloriana dances are given in his own arrangement with the basically unaccompanied choral dances separated by introductions given by solo tenor and harp: an inspired choice by the composer, put into splendid effect here.

Holst's Rig Veda settings are also given most beautifully, with Thelma Owen's harp-playing again very much in evidence, most effectively so. Perhaps here and there it will be material to a buyer just which Rig Veda music is included: it is Group 3 of the choral (not solo) settings. Op. 26. No. 3.

The good production of the record extends also to a good sleeve-note by Peter Lamb. The whole, obviously, is highly recommended.

-- Gramophone [11/1985]
reviewing the original LP release
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Works on This Recording

Gloriana, Op. 53: Choral Dances by Benjamin Britten
Performer:  Thelma Owen (Harp), Martyn Hill (Tenor)
Conductor:  Hilary Davan Wetton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Holst Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1953; England 
Date of Recording: 03/1985 
Venue:  St Paul's Girls' School, London, England 
Length: 12 Minutes 2 Secs. 
Language: English 
Choral Hymns from the Rig Veda, Op. 26: 3rd group, H 99 by Gustav Holst
Performer:  Thelma Owen (Harp)
Conductor:  Hilary Davan Wetton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Holst Singers
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1910; England 
Date of Recording: 03/1985 
Venue:  St Paul's Girls' School, London, England 
Length: 13 Minutes 0 Secs. 
Lie Strewn the White Flocks, F 33 by Sir Arthur Bliss
Performer:  Shirley Minty (Mezzo Soprano), Judith Pearce (Flute)
Conductor:  Hilary Davan Wetton
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Holst Singers,  Holst Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; England 
Date of Recording: 03/1985 
Venue:  St Paul's Girls' School, London, England 
Length: 35 Minutes 23 Secs. 
Language: English 

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