“English Landscapes” – Hallé Orchestra & Choir/Mark Elder/ Lyn Fletcher, violin – Hallé Concerts Society

by | Jan 5, 2007 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

“English Landscapes” – Hallé Orchestra & Choir/Mark Elder/ Lyn Fletcher, violin – Hallé Concerts Society [Enhanced CD] HLL 7512, 71:40 ****:

Program: BAX: Tintagel; VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: The Lark Ascending; Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1; FINZI: The Fall of the Leaf; DELIUS: Summer Night on the River; On Hearing the First Couckoo in Spring; ELGAR: As Torrents in Summer; IRELAND: The Hills

At first glance I was going to send this new release on to one of our choral music specialists since I lean more toward instrumental music. Then I saw that only the last two selections of a bit over two minutes apiece featured the choir and the other six were orchestral. This is one of the best collections of short familiar works by British composers I’ve heard. The general theme is the strong focus on English nature and landscapes by its composers of the late 19th and early 20 centuries.

The disc only credits “Hallé” – that may be sufficient for British audiences in the know, but I had to do some digging to learn that it is actually the Hallé Orchestra, which is Britain’s oldest symphony orchestra – having given its first concert in its hometown of Manchester in 1858.

The pops concert starts off with a bang with Bax’s most familiar work, the audiophile-oriented Tintagel, with its air of high drama and romance. Interesting how similar and yet different his musical depiction of the power of the sea was from Debussy’s.  The Fall of the Leaf is a sad but beautiful elegy for orchestra and was the only one of the instrumental selections with which I was unfamiliar. VW’s Lark Ascending is surely one of the most gorgeous short works ever written for violin with orchestra, and even anti-Delius listeners must appreciate the wonderful atmosphere and pastoral mood conjured up so amazingly in his First Cuckoo in Spring. Its companion Delius piece is more experimental harmonically, sounding like the composer crossed the Channel to France in its impressionistic slant. The Elgar selection is for a cappella choir and comes from one of his larger choral works. It and the Ireland piece illustrate the long popularity of the unaccompanied choir in English musical life.

This is supposed to be an Enhanced CD but I must grouse about the total negligence to point out anywhere that it is not a typical cross-platform Enhanced CD and therefore cannot be accessed by Mac users. So I can only tell you that it may do nothing more than taking you to the album’s web site when you insert it in your PC drive.

– John Sunier

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