“BUTTERWORTH: Orchestral Works – The Banks of Green Willow” – Kris Russman – BIS

BUTTERWORTH: Orchestral Works – The Banks of Green Willow”

A Shropshire Lad – six songs orchestrated by Kriss Russman · World première recording of the orchestrated version – James Rutherford (bari.); Two English Idylls; Suite for String Quartette arranged for string orchestra by Kriss Russman; world premiere recording of the orchestrated version; Love Blows As The Wind Blows; James Rutherford (bari.); Fantasia for Orch. completed by Kriss Russman · World premiere recording – BIS multichannel SACD BIS-2195, 74:00 (7/1/16) [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

Familiar music by Butterworth re-scored for orchestra, along with some world premieres.

George Butterworth was a fine English composer whose life was cut short 2 years after he joined the army and died in the trenches at the Somme in 1916.

This disc has several of Butterworth’s pieces, most notably his Orchestral Fantasia (a world premier recording) which he had started just before the war broke out: a 92-bar full score manuscript lasting some three-and-a-half minutes has been preserved. On the first page Butterworth wrote ‘see short score’ which indicated that the work may have been completed but if so, the score has been lost. The composer and conductor Kriss Russman has therefore taken up where the manuscript breaks off, adding some five minutes of music through a process which he describes in his liner notes as ‘developing Butterworth’s original ideas and combining them with additional material derived from an analysis of his other music’.

Listening to the reconstruction/extension is a pleasant experience. It surely sounds like Butterworth, and this work is a fine addition to the composer’s catalog.

The multi-channel SACD contains several other more familiar works, all performed lovingly by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Notable is the fact that Russman has also made orchestral arrangements of the five-movement Suite for String Quartette and the Six Songs from ‘A Shropshire Lad’, both of which are recorded here for the first time. The soloist in the song cycle, and in the three songs that make up Love Blows as the Wind Blows, is James Rutherford.

The recorded sound is very rich and realistic, with the SACD recording giving us lovely string sounds and robust brass. Butterworth is an easy to acquire taste, and if you like Percy Grainger, some of the lighter Holst, and Vaughan Williams then this disc will please.

—Mel Martin

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