It's not too often that a new full-evening, two-act ballet appears that is put into repertory, but this one seems to have been treated just like that. It was created by choreographer David Bintley for the Stuttgart Ballet, but now has traveled successfully to England where it has gone into the repertory of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. It is that production that has led to this handsome recording. The tonal music is highly dramatic, befitting its subject matter. Composer John McCabe has his own style, to be certain, but since it is not too well known in the U.S. it might not be running amuck to say that parts of it are reminiscent of Michael Tippett's Midsummer Marriage, while other shimmeringRead more effects smack of Britten's Prince of the Pagodas. There are many fanfares, quite of bit of quasi medieval music, and, in scenes such as the one depicting Edward's grief after the death of his lover Gaveston, we find some very moving and lyrical string writing.
The performance is absolutely first rate. This is an excellent orchestra, and for once it has been properly recorded. On other labels, the sound has seemed remote and lacking in bass, but on this Hyperion disc the sound is rich and full with a more-than-sufficient, well-focused lower end. Moreover, there is a gratifying stage depth, yet a presence to all instruments. As a demo, listen to tracks 14-16 of the first CD. This sequence starts with pounding, subwoofer-action drums, as the Grim Reaper portends civil war in England. The reedy buzz of a contrabassoon buoyed by woodwind chords can easily be heard in spite of the cacophonous percussion. As the nobles hunt for Gaveston, there are wild brass interjections from a point farther back on the stage. After Gaveston is killed, we hear the warmest up-front string sound imaginable as Part 16--Edward's grief--unfolds. In sum, this is an extremely colorful score, and the engineers have caught it in ideal sound. The notes have interesting pictures from the English production and a full synopsis of the plot.
--Rad Bennett, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Edward IIby John McCabe
Royal Ballet Sinfonia
Period: 20th Century Written: 1994-1995; England Date of Recording: 11/1999 Venue: Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London Length: 113 Minutes 49 Secs.