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Naxos releases received in February 2004

English Choral Music - Britten St Nicolas
Naxos 8.557203

It is good to have again available this valuable compilation of Britten's choral music under the direction of Steuart Bedford, who has kept the composer's mantle alight. St Nicolas was premiered to open the first Aldeburgh Festival in 1948, and 'officially' the next month at Lancing College, Peter Pears' old school. It has Philip Langridge in fine voice as the Saint, the vicissitudes of whose life can be followed with complete texts in a well documented insert book. Christ's Nativity (1931) is already characteristic of the student composer, and thirty years on Psalm 150 is a present for his prep school in Lowestoft, a practical work for young people and whatever instruments might be available. All for under £5!

Delius Orchestral Works RSNO/David Lloyd-Jones
Naxos 8.557143

In my younger days there was a potent myth that Beecham alone could interpret Delius properly, and memories of his performances remain ever fresh.

This however is a marvellous modern account of some favourites and a few less familiar. Most of the pieces are gentle and poetic, with the characteristic niente endings, but there are livelier pieces framing the programme, an early March Caprice and a late Fantastic Dance. The American Rhapsody anticipates Appalachia. An excellent introduction to a composer who retains his unique individuality.

Great Conductors
- Koussevitsky Naxos 8.110168

Do not overlook Naxos' refurbishment of early recordings. Koussevitsky's famous Sibelius recordings from the '30s at Boston (Pohjola's Daughter & Tapiola, BSO) and London (7th Symphony, BBCSO) are brought back to vivid life with the dedicated expertise of Mark Obert-Thorn. Gripping accounts which deserve a place on (and off!) your shelf alongside preferred more recent interpretations.



: Piano Concerto / Holiday Overture / Symphony No. 1 8.559151

Early Carter - his first symphony - has suggestions of Vaughan-Williams, which many will prefer to the rebarbative first piano concerto, usefully made available around the time of its 95 yr old composer's more accessible successor, premiered last month. The American forces give assured performances and this is another worth-while and timely Naxos release.

For £20 you could be assured of a rewarding few hours of diverse musics on record to enjoy and contemplate.

© Peter Grahame Woolf