Nicholas Braithwaite / Vernon Handley / Barry Wordsworth

Geoffrey Bush: Overture, Yorick; Music for Orchestra; Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2

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To what shall we compare the orchestral music of English composer Geoffrey Bush? Shall we compare it to the individualistic modernism of John Ireland, his teacher, mentor, and friend? Shall we compare it to the romantic modernism of William Walton, his senior by almost a generation but his exemplar in form and technique? Shall we compare it more specifically to the music of American neo-Romantic Samuel Barber, whose School for Scandal Overture stands as the model for Bush's breezy Yorick Overture; or to the music of Soviet social realist Sergey Prokofiev, whose Third Piano Concerto provided the material for the rushing climaxes of Bush's brilliant First Symphony; or to the music of the Czech-French-American internationalist Bohuslav Martinu, whose Sixth Symphony provided some of the material for the buzzing climax of Bush's colorful Second Symphony?

Or shall we instead take Bush on his own terms like the three conductors and four orchestras on this 1995 Lyrita disc dedicated to his music? Let's. Taken on its own terms, Bush's music could be described as conservative English modernism, as music full of memorable themes, driving rhythms, brilliant orchestrations, and, above all, cogent and compelling structures. As expertly performed by the New Philharmonia Orchestra, the London Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, and the Royal Philharmonic under Vernon Handley, Nicholas Braithwaite, and Barry Wordsworth, Bush's music is well worth hearing by fans of postwar English composers of the Alwyn/Arnold ilk. Lyrita's recordings -- dating from the high stereo and early digital eras -- is consistently clean, crisp, and deep.

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