Barry Wordsworth

Julius Harrison: Bredon Hill; Widdicombe Fair; Troubadour Suite; Hubert Clifford: Serenade for Strings

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It's a tricky thing about twentieth century English orchestral music -- how exactly do you tell the difference between "light" music composers and "serious" music composers? If you didn't know that Julius Harrison's richly nostalgic Worcestershire Suite wasn't by Delius and his lushly bucolic Bredon Hill wasn't by Vaughan Williams, would you know they were written by a light and not a serious music composer? Could you tell by their sprightly tunes, striking orchestrations, warm colors, and honest earnestness that Harrison wasn't considered to be in the same league as Finzi or Moeran? Probably not -- no more than you tell that the lovely and gracious Serenade for Strings by Hubert Clifford that fills out the disc wasn't in the same league as Vaughan Williams' burley and bumptious Partita for double string orchestra. In these world-premiere or CD-premiere recordings by Barry Wordsworth leading the BBC Concert Orchestra, the scores of Harrison and Clifford come alive in deeply skillful and profoundly affectionate performances. Wordsworth, the BBC Concert Orchestra's principal conductor, seems to have no idea that this is light music; his interpretations here grant the composers the same aesthetic due as his interpretations of Delius, Vaughan Williams, and even Wagner did for those composers in his earlier recordings. And the BBC Concert Orchestra, which was in fact Clifford's orchestra for a time in the '50s, gives performances here that are fully in the same class as the BBC's serious orchestras. Light or serious, anyone who loves English music from the first half of the twentieth century will surely enjoy this disc. Dutton's sound in this 2006 digital recording is warm, full, and round.

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