Rumon Gamba / BBC Philharmonic Orchestra

British Tone Poems, Vol. 2

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The first volume of what Chandos is calling "British Tone Poems" from the BBC Philharmonic and conductor Rumon Gamba was a success, and audiences have eagerly awaited more of the same. This second volume does not disappoint in the least, with a collection of almost completely obscure works. Two, Sir Frederic Hymen Cowen's Rêverie and Patrick Hadley's Kinder Scout, are world recorded premieres, and even those by "name" composers, like Vaughan Williams' early Harnham Down, aren't often played. That work is subtitled "impression" for orchestra and is a lovely artifact of the composer's engagement with French impressionism. Some of the other pieces are conservative enough that they do not take even that influence into account, but all are well-wrought works that sound as good today as when they first appeared. Most of the music, following Vaughan Williams' example, is pastoral in theme. Sample the first track, April-England, Op. 48, No. 1, of the almost unknown John Foulds (who later went to India and began to write music influenced by that region). It's as light and airy as the title might suggest, but the tempo relationship between its opening and middle material is subtle and original. Chandos has designed the pieces as tone poems, and a few, such as Dorothy Howell's Lamia (inspired by a Keats poem) do qualify, but most of the pieces are short orchestral sketches. Rumon Gamba and the BBC Philharmonic display real mastery of this material, which demonstrates audiences' hunger for music that the modernist nomenklatura so long invidiously derided. Chandos' MediaCity sound is another attraction here. Highly recommended.

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