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Lyrita - Celebrating Fifty Years devoted to British Music - Set One
CD 1 [73:53]
William Alwyn Symphonic Prelude: The Magic Island (1952) - LPO/Alwyn
Malcolm Arnold English Dances: Set 2, op.33 (1951) - LPO/Arnold
Bach orch. Henry Wood Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565 - LPO/Braithwaite
Granville Bantock Russian Scenes (1899) - LPO/Wordsworth
Arnold Bax Northern Ballad No.1 (1927/1931) - LPO/Boult
Arthur Benjamin Overture to an Italian Comedy (1936) - RPO/Fredman
William Sterndale Bennett Caprice in E, op.22 (1838) - Malcolm Binns (piano)/LPO/Braithwaite
CD 2 [75:21]
Lennox Berkeley Serenade for Strings, op.12 (1939) - LPO/Berkeley
Arthur Bliss Suite: Adam Zero (1946) (mvts 2, 4 & 5) LSO/Bliss
Frank Bridge Suite for String Orchestra (1909/1910) - LPO/Boult
William Busch Cello Concerto (1940/1941) (mvt 2) Raphael Wallfisch (cello)/RPO/Handley
Geoffrey Bush Overture: Yorick(1949) - NPO/Handley
George Butterworth Rhapsody: A Shropshire Lad (1912) - LPO/Boult
Eric Coates From Meadow to Mayfair Suite (1931) (mvts 1 & 3) - NPO/Boult
CD 3 [74:28]
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Valse de la Reine, op.22/3 (1898) - LPO/Wordsworth
Arnold Cooke Ballet Suite: Jabez and The Devil (1959) - LPO/Braithwaite
Frederick Delius The Walk to the Paradise Garden (1907) - LPO/Fredman
Gerald Finzi Eclogue, op.10 (1920s) - Peter Katin (piano)/NPO/Handley
John Foulds Mantra of Bliss, op.61b/2 (1919/1930) - LPO/Wordsworth [13:06]
Cecil Armstrong Gibbs Fancy Dress - Dance Suite, op.82 (1935) - RPO/Joly
CD 4 [67:58]
Ruth Gipps Horn Concerto, op.58 (1969) – David Pyatt (horn)/LPO/Braithwaite
Patrick Hadley One Morning in Spring (1942) - LPO/Boult
Alun Hoddinott Welsh Dances: Set 2, op.64 (1969) - NYOW/Davison
Gustav Holst Japanese Suite, op.33 (1915) - LSO/Boult
Herbert Howells Merry-Eye, op.20b (1920) - NPO/Boult
William Hurlstone Variations on a Hungarian Air (1898) - LPO/Braithwaite
John Ireland The Forgotten Rite - Prelude (1918) - LPO/Boult
rec. 1966-2007. ADD/DDD

LYRITA SRCD 2337 [4 CDs TT: 4 hours 51 minutes]

Lyrita - Celebrating Fifty Years devoted to British Music - Set Two
CD 1 [67:46]
Gordon Jacob Symphony No.1 (1929) (mvt 1) - LPO/Wordsworth
Daniel Jones Dance Fantasy (1976) - BBCWSO/Thomson
John Joubert Symphony No.1, op.20 (1955) (mvt 4) - LPO/Handley
Constant Lambert Music for Orchestra (1927) - LPO/Wordsworth
Walter Leigh Concertino for Harpsichord and Strings (1934) - Trevor Pinnock (harpsichord)/LPO/Braithwaite
George Lloyd Symphony No.4 (1945/1946) (mvt 1) - PO/Downes
CD 2 [77:51]
Elizabeth Maconchy Music for Strings (1983) - LPO/Wordsworth
William Mathias Sinfonietta, op.34 (1966) - NYOW/Davison
E J Moeran Rhapsody No.2 (1924 rev 1941) - LPO/Boult
Hubert Parry Symphonic Variations (1897) - LSO/Boult
Alan Rawsthorne Symphonic Studies (1938) - LPO/Pritchard
CD 3 [79:13]
Cyril Rootham Symphony No.1 in C minor (1932) (mvt 4) - LPO/Handley
Edmund Rubbra Symphony No.4, op.53 (1942) (mvt 1) - PO/del Mar
Cyril Scott Poem: Early One Morning, (1931 rev 1962) - John Ogdon (piano)/LPO/Herrmann
Charles V Stanford Irish Rhapsody No.4 in A minor, The Fisherman of Loch Neagh and what he saw, op.141 (1913) - LPO/Braithwaite
Robert Still Symphony No.3 (1960) (mvt 2) - LSO/Goossens
Phyllis Tate London Fields (1958) - LPO/Wordsworth
CD 4 [73:04]
Ralph Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910) - LPO/Boult
William Walton Music for Children (1940) - LPO/Walton
Peter Warlock An Old Song (1917) - LPO/Boult
Grace Williams Ballads for Orchestra (1968) - BBCWSO/Handley
Malcolm Williamson Santiago de Espada (1957) - RLPO/Groves
William Wordsworth Symphony No.3 in C, op.48 (1948) (mvt 2) - LPO/Braithwaite
rec. 1966-2007. ADD/DDD

LYRITA SRCD 2338 [4 CDs: 4 hours 58 minutes]

For those of us interested in British music the Lyrita catalogue served as a lifeline to this precious commodity before labels such as Chandos, Hyperion and Meridian took up, and continued, the championing of home grown music. Lyrita served to compliment the BBC Radio 3 broadcasts of British music – who remembers the on–going series called Orpheus Britannicus which, each week, brought forth some gem of unknown British music in specially made recordings by the Corporation? The first Lyrita LP I ever bought was SRCS 34 – music of Gustav Holst, played by the English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Imogen Holst – in 1974 and over the years I have added each new batch of recordings to my collection. Now there’s not just the original Lyrita catalogue on CD but recordings of British music sponsored by the Welsh Arts Council, and the Galbenkian Foundation, amongst others; these other recordings have taken Lyrita into the more rarified stages of modern composition and added composers such as Roberto Gerhard and Don Banks to the regular fare.

Lyrita was never scared of recording, at the time, music which didn’t appear to have an audience. The Bax Symphonies (with the exception of Nos.3 and 4 which had been recorded elsewhere), orchestral music of E J Moeran, the songs of John Ireland. The list goes on and on and Lyrita had the knack of finding the right people to perform the right music, thus Norman del Mar led Constant Lambert ballets and Rubbra Symphonies, Sir Adrian Boult conducted the Elgar Symphonies, Bax Tone Poems, Parry and John Ireland orchestral music, Vernon Handley recorded Finzi, John Foulds, Elizabeth Maconchy and younger conductors took up the baton on behalf of British music, especially Barry Wordsworth (a Handley pupil) and Nicholas Braithwaite.

Listening to these eight CDs, which offer, if not the very best of Lyrita, a good, and very fair sampling of the variety of their releases over the past 50 years, one is left amazed at the range and diversity of the issues. Throughout, the recorded sound is exemplary, both on the original Lyritas and the new titles brought in. It’s also good to report that the sets don’t just consist of excerpts from bigger works for there are many complete pieces here – Maconchy’s Music for Strings (which needs to be heard complete otherwise a separate movement doesn’t make sense), Rawsthorne’s Symphonic Studies, surely one of the finest inter war compositions by an English composer, as well as smaller pieces such as Daniel Jones’s fun filled Dance Fantasy, and Lambert’s Music for Orchestra.

As can be seen from the track listing the works have been given in alphabetical order of the composer’s names; thus set one starts with William Alwyn’s noctural Magic Island, only to have the illusion shattered with Malcolm Arnold’s rumbustious English Dances. Likewise, at the end of the same CD, Sterndale Bennett’s lovely Caprice, op.22 is overshadowed by Bax’s brooding Northern Ballad No.1, in an electrifying performance directed by Boult, and Benjamin’s slick and gossamer Overture to an Italian Comedy.

The performances are uniformly good, many are outstanding – listen to the perfection of Finzi’s Eclogue, played with the most delicate of touches by Peter Katin, or the power and mystic qualities of Braithwaite’s performance of Stanford’s 4th Irish Rhapsody and Handley’s severe but never hard driven performance of Grace Williams’s Ballads for Orchestra. This latter is coupled with Williams’s 2nd Symphony which I would go as far as saying is one of the most significant post war British works in that genre and it should be heard by everyone.

These two sets are worth their weight in gold, if only for the chance to make new converts to the music of our indigenous composers. The disks contain 50 works, or parts of works, and they certainly left me salivating over what isn’t here, and I already know and love this music – what must the feeling be to those who haven’t heard this music before? Treat yourself to a late Christmas present and revel in Britain’s musical green and pleasant land.

Bob Briggs