Music on CD
Friday 06 June 1997
Orchestral Works by Bax, Butterworth, Elgar, Holst, Vaughan Williams
London Philharmonic / Sir Adrian Bolt
Belart 461 3542
June 1923 witnessed the first performances of Walton's Facade and Stravinsky's Les Noces, but Vaughan Williams's Old King Cole ballet - which was premiered during the same month - has, for some reason, slinked off into relative oblivion. The plot concerns the Saxon King of Colchester whose daughter became a Roman empress, and the music alternates bluff humour with wistful fiddle-work reminiscent of The Lark Ascending.
Sir Adrian Boult's performance is masterly and Decca's punchy mono recording does it full justice, but perhaps the most valuable item on this treasurable CD is a reading of Tintagel that marks a high-point of Bax conducting on record. Atmosphere, drama, tension, pathos, instrumental precision, all are palpably present in a performance that summons legend, sea-spray and racing clouds.
Indeed, it's a far stronger reading than Boult's softer-grained stereo re-make for Lyrita (good though that is) and proves beyond doubt that Bax responds better to "welly" than to wallowing.
The Elgar Chansons "de Matin" and "de Nuit" are pure poetry in sound, Butterworth's narrative A Shropshire Lad and The Banks of Green Willow are prime examples of English late-Romantic tone painting, and Holst's mercurial ballet music for The Perfect Fool is a sort of terrestrial equivalent of The Planets.
Boult's musical intuition illuminates every bar of each work, and the CD transfers are uniformly successful.
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