Various Artists

The Perfect Evening: Great Britain

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In their efforts to bring classical music into the lives of a broader public, promoters have made use of the "Music for…" theme in countless inventive ways. Food has been a common topic and there are plenty of collections of music for dining, but the Australian label ABC Classics carries the music/food concept to a new level of specificity: music to accompany a particular menu (recipes included) for a particular season. In their The Perfect Evening series, the installment on England features a four-course winter meal, with Roast Rack of Pork as the centerpiece. (Listeners/gourmands in the U.S. take heed: the recipe measurements are metric.) The selection includes two works by Purcell, and the rest are gently post-Romantic. They include pieces by Delius, Elgar, and Vaughan Williams, as well as light music specialists Eric Coates, Ronald Binge, Ronald Hanmer, and Hubert Bath. The most substantial works are Elgar's Serenade for Strings and Vaughan Williams' Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus. As is typical for the label, all the performers are Australian and a total of seven ensembles are featured. The performances are very fine and even the weakest, a somewhat stiff version of the Vaughan Williams played by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, is entirely respectable. Taken from a number of albums recorded in different venues, the change of ambience between tracks is often noticeable, but each individual track is well engineered. This attractive collection deserves to reach beyond its narrowly targeted audience and should appeal to fans of lyrical British pastoral music.

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