Vernon Handley

Bliss: A Colour Symphony; The Enchantress; Cello Concerto

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Even for those listeners who love the English composers of the first half of the twentieth century, Adrian Bliss is a bit recherché. More modernist and more cosmopolitan than even William Walton, Bliss was nevertheless a lesser composer than Walton. Although no one doubted his technique, no one was quite sure about his sincerity. The modernist irony of so much of Bliss' music lessens the emotional effectiveness of his symphonic rhetoric. Even at his grandest and most public in A Colour Symphony, he is curiously unconvincing.

This 1987 recording of A Colour Symphony along with The Enchantress and the Cello Concerto by Vernon Handley leading the Ulster Orchestra is as impressive as the work is likely to sound in Handley and the Ulster's performance. The themes are big, the harmonies are bigger, the rhythms are bigger yet, and the colors are the biggest of all, but none of it is especially memorable. One recalls being impressed more than one remembers the music. One remembers Linda Finnie's swooping mezzo soprano and Raphael Wallfisch's soaring cello far more readily than remembering the music they performed. Chandos' early digital sound seems less hard and glaring in this reissue.

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