John Wilson / BBC Concert Orchestra

Edward German: Symphonic Suite; Symphony No. 2

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There were three distinct phases to Edward German's career. Between 1889 and 1899, he was a composer of concert music with suites, overtures, and a pair of symphonies to his credit. Between 1900 and 1909, he was a composer of theater music with several light operas to his credit. Between 1910 and his death in 1936, he was a composer of almost no music with only two slight works to his credit. This disc, containing his March Rhapsody on Original Themes, Symphonic Suite in D minor, and Symphony No. 2 in A minor, is entirely devoted to German's first period. Performed with authority and sincerity by the BBC Concert Orchestra under conductor John Wilson, these works prove completely charming if not especially arresting. German is a skilled orchestrator and a talented composer of ingratiating tunes set to conservative harmonies and bouncy rhythms. This approach works better in the March Rhapsody and the suite where German's good tunes count for a lot than in the symphony where German's tendency toward bombast and his lack of mastery of the larger forms is all too apparent. Still, listeners who want to know what English music was like before Stanford, Parry, and Elgar will perforce seek out German. Dutton's sound is warm and full, if a bit shallow at climaxes.

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