Bliss was an important British composer who lived until 1975. He had fought in the First World War and was later music director of the BBC. He followed Sir Arnold Bax as Master of the Queen’s Musick. His score for the H.G. Wells sci-fi film Things To Come was my intro to Bliss, and I later treasured the Decca LP of his Colour Symphony. Bliss himself said that he always found it easier to write dramatic music vs. ‘pure” music.
The inspiration for the Colour Symphony was a book on heraldry which Bliss had picked up. He saw the possibility of making the four movements of a symphony associated with symbolic meanings of four primary colors. In the work he evoked the heraldic nature of Purple, Red, Blue and Green. (In the 1950s Frank Sinatra conducted an orchestral suite on even more colors, with each movement commissioned of a different composer.) Purple represents royalty and pageantry, as might be expected, and the other three movements follow in similar form and intent. Bliss’ idiom is tonal but modern, and his orchestration fits the subject perfectly, being, well… colorful.
The Violin Concerto of 1955 places the soloist in the position of protagonist against the orchestra. The second movement is a “Queen Mab”-type scherzo and the lengthy finale has a gypsy-music section prior to an exhilarating conclusion. Mordkovitch has a lovely tone, enhancing the strongly Romantic themes heard in the concerto. An excellent disc pairing for anyone interested in the work of modern British composers.
– John Sunier