Owain Arwel Hughes

Through Gold and Silver Clouds

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Through Gold and Silver Clouds Review

by James Leonard

Very light, very sweet, and very, very captivating, this collection of (mostly) British string orchestra music performed by the Camerata Wales under the direction of conductor Owain Arwel Hughes called Through Gold and Silver Clouds will charm listeners who know the works on the program and delight listeners who don't. Of course, Elgar's lyrical Serenade for Strings, Holst's rollicking St. Paul's Suite, Warlock's sly Capriol Suite, and Delius' sensual On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring and Summer Night on the River are already long familiar to fans of English music and the tuneful and atmospheric Fantasia in A minor from 1936 by Arwel Hughes (the conductor's father) fits in quite comfortably alongside them. When this recording was made in 2006, the Camerata Wales was a one-year-old chamber orchestra founded by conductor Hughes, and the strong tone, secure intonation, and cogent ensemble, while not on the same level as more mature orchestras, is still entirely competent and capable. Plus, the group's enthusiasm for the music and the conductor is palpable. Few recorded performances of the Allegro piacevole that opens Elgar's Serenade or "The Dargason" that closes Holst's Suite have surpassed these in sheer energy. While old timers may rightly prefer John Barbirolli's more passionate recordings of many of these works, even they will have to acknowledge the high quality of music-making here. Plus, BIS' digital sound is, as always, exceptionally clean, warm, and vivid.

It should be mentioned that this disc's wonderful title comes from Elgar's description to Delius of the sensation of flying: "There is a delightful feeling of elation in sailing through gold and silver clouds. It is, Delius, rather like your music -- a little intangible sometimes, but always very beautiful."

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