Vernon Handley

Bainton: Symphony No. 3; Boughton: Symphony No. 1 "Oliver Cromwell"

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Among the many forgotten English composers whose surnames start with the letter B, some are more forgotten than others. For example, Arnold Bax is hardly forgotten, Granville Bantock more forgotten, Havergal Brian even more forgotten, Rutland Boughton yet more forgotten, and Edgar Bainton nearly completely forgotten. Thus, for those who follow English music of the twentieth century, this 2007 Dutton disc with the redoubtable Vernon Handley and the indefatigable BBC Concert Orchestra will afford the uncommon opportunity to hear works by the yet more forgotten Boughton and the nearly completely forgotten Bainton.

Born and trained in England, Edgar Bainton ran the Newcastle Upon Tyne Conservatory from 1912 until 1934, then moved to Australia where he ran the Sydney State Conservatory until his death in 1956. He began his four-movement Symphony No. 3 in C minor around 1952 and finished it shortly before he died. It was premiered posthumously, recorded faithfully, and forgotten almost immediately. Likewise born and trained in England, Rutland Boughton in fact achieved a great deal of fame during his lifetime for his incredibly popular opera The Immortal Hour, lost it all when he produced his opera Bethlehem for the Miner's Lockout in 1926, then spent the rest of his long life living in obscurity until he died in 1960. His Symphony No. 1, a four-movement character study entitled "Oliver Cromwell," the finale featuring a baritone soloist singing the revolutionary Puritan's deathbed prayer, was composed in 1905 but never played in Boughton's lifetime. Indeed, the symphony remained unplayed until 2005 and receives its first recording here. After listening to these devoted and dedicated performances by Handley and BBC Concert Orchestra, it has to be conceded that music history has not missed anything in its neglect of Bainton and Boughton. Bainton's symphony, though well written, is for the most part a pale, derivative work while Boughton's symphony, though ably composed, is written in a faded romantic style that soon wears out its welcome. All that admitted, however, it must be added that Bainton's Adagio, a deeply felt tribute to his recently deceased wife, is quietly persuasive and deserves to be heard by fans of English music.

The digital sound is warm, lush, and colorful.

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