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Choral Music (Choirs) - Released August 7, 2020 | Lyrita

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Chamber Music - Released March 6, 2020 | Lyrita

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Composer William Alwyn is generally known for just three string quartets, numbered 1, 2, and 3, and much later than the youthful works on this album. The five pieces here -- there is a teenage set of Seven Irish Tunes for String Quartet as well as the four numbered works promised in the graphics -- are part of a group of 13 written between 1923 and 1931. Not all were student works, but they have that flavor: here, Alwyn tries out various structural and tonal ideas, although at this stage his later, highly individual flirtation with 12-tone music was not yet in evidence. The best, in the form of the String Quartet No. 7 in A major (1929), is offered first: this is a marvelously quiet, reflective work with a "Retrospective: Adagio e tranquillo" finale that sounds unlike any other music of the period. The Irish Tunes are certainly accomplished considering the age of their composer, and they are not Vaughan Williams knock-offs, but something more economical. Also intriguing is the String Quartet No. 9 in One Movement, embodying to a greater or lesser degree Romeo's "O here will I set up my everlasting rest" speech from Romeo and Juliet. The performances by the Villiers Quartet are ideally sensitive to the variety of styles Alwyn essayed here. This may be of most interest to fans of the interwar British scene and Alwyn, but it's listenable for anyone, especially the String Quartet No. 7. © TiVo
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Classical - Released February 7, 2020 | Lyrita

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Chamber Music - Released January 3, 2020 | Lyrita

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Chamber Music - Released November 1, 2019 | Lyrita

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Classical - Released May 3, 2019 | Lyrita

Booklet
British composer Bernard Rands taught at Harvard for many years and is better known in the U.S. than in Britain. He started with a musical language close to serialism but broadened it later in his career, a bit like Penderecki. The result in Rands' case fit the aims of U.S. orchestras well. He wrote tonally complex works that were nevertheless clear and easily graspable in their structure. The Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, written for the Boston Symphony Orchestra on the occasion of the composer's 80th birthday, is a good example. The original pianist, Jonathan Biss, reprises his role here and understands the work, which is intentionally not called a "Piano Concerto," as the composer wishes to express the balance between the piano and the orchestra. That's the main organizing principle: the balance grows more intricate over the course of the first movement but is not disrupted. The central movement is an especially effective nocturne (sample this), and the finale is an attractive virtuoso piece. The earlier Canti del Sole is a set of orchestral songs to poems about the sun; it's an earlier work, but clearly the product of the same composer. The most recent work is Music for Shoko: Aubade (2018), which is an arrangement of Rands' Concerto for English horn and orchestra of three years earlier. It adds up to work by a composer who is experiencing a remarkable run of late-life creativity, and one whom British audiences may well be delighted to rediscover. © TiVo
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Choral Music (Choirs) - Released May 3, 2019 | Lyrita

Booklet
Charles Villiers Stanford had the misfortune to live until his music had fallen out of fashion. The Mass Via Victrix, Op. 173, a substantial 1919 work for four soloists, chorus, orchestra, and organ, apparently remained unperformed, except for the Gloria, even though it was published in 1920. The small cantata At the Abbey Gate, Op. 177, suffered the same fate. Perhaps audiences gravitated more toward composers who had actually fought in the war, but the elderly Stanford was in London when it was bombed, and he was forced to flee to Windsor. Whatever the case, the failure of the work must have been a bitter disappointment, for it shows evidence of heart and soul. As the title implies, the mass commemorates the war dead and gives thanks for Britain's victory. It combines a big public sort of conservative polyphony in the Gloria, with more passionate, inward material in the solos. Perhaps the mixture did not sit well with choir directors who examined the work. The Credo, however, is a major undiscovered masterwork (sample this, especially the Incarnatus). Stanford was embittered over his eclipse by Elgar, but the younger composer's influence found its way into this movement. The Sanctus, the mysterious, highly chromatic treatment of the Incarnatus, and the violent, leaping Crucifixus, have an immediacy that's very rare in mass settings of the 20th century. One hopes that choirs will incorporate this work into their repertories, although it needs powerful soloists; it receives them here in the quartet of Kiandra Howarth, Jess Dandy, Ruairi Bowen, and Gareth Brynmor John. The BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales bring commitment to their work, as do Lyrita's engineers, who bring forth wonderful choral clarity from Hoddinott Hall in Cardiff, Wales. Quite a surprise, and in parts very highly recommended. © TiVo
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Classical - Released April 5, 2019 | Lyrita

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Classical - Released April 5, 2019 | Lyrita

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Classical - Released March 1, 2019 | Lyrita

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Classical - Released February 1, 2019 | Lyrita

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Classical - Released January 4, 2019 | Lyrita

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Classical - Released December 1, 2018 | Lyrita

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Classical - Released December 1, 2018 | Lyrita

Before Vernon Handley and Bryden Thomson's digital cycles of the complete symphonies of Arnold Bax, there were only single symphonies in scattered stereo releases. Arguably the best of these were issued by Lyrita, and arguably the best of those are coupled on this reissue: a 1970 Second Symphony with Myer Fredman conducting the London Philharmonic and a 1971 Fifth with Raymond Leppard leading the same orchestra. This argument rests partly on the quality of the pieces. All Bax's symphonies have heroic themes scored in brazen colors, but his 1926 Second has the most cogently reasoned developments and his 1932 Fifth has the most powerful rhetoric plus the most emotionally satisfying Epilogue. But in the end it's the quality of the performances that make the case for the music. A student of Adrian Boult and an assistant to Otto Klemperer, Fredman brings a strong technique and a firm sense of pacing to the Second's epic narrative arch. Leppard later did excellent work with the English Chamber Orchestra, but his youthful recordings in the British orchestral repertoire were especially heartfelt, and his Fifth is both tightly controlled and lyrically affecting, particularly in the Epilogue. The London Philharmonic plays with skill and professionalism, but with perhaps more dedication than it brought to its contemporary recordings of Brahms and Beethoven. Recorded in the Walthamstow Assembly Hall in London, Lyrita's stereo sound is big, clear, and deep, with a tangible sense of time and place. © TiVo
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Classical - Released December 1, 2018 | Lyrita

Booklet
The reputation of English composer Rebecca Clarke has been on the upswing, with the pianist John York, heard on this album, among various musicians supervising performing editions of her work. Her Viola Sonata of 1919 is one of her best-known works, and despite the fact that Clarke herself was a violist, it may benefit from the recasting here for cello and piano, made by Clarke. The muscular, passionate take on French Impressionism that characterizes this work and the Rhapsody for cello and piano of 1923 is brought out well by the cello in the case of the sonata. Sample the sonata's opening "Impetuoso" movement for an idea. There are lots of other attractions here as well: examples of the later, folk-influenced phase of Clarke's career in the lovely Passacaglia on an Old English Tune and I'll Bid My Heart Be Still, and an unusual example of a contemporary work that directly addresses one of its near predecessors, York's Dialogue with Rebecca Clarke (2007), which weaves motifs from the sonata with original music. Cellist Raphael Wallfisch has the right big, melodic sound for this material, and with fine sound from Lyrita (recorded at an unidentified location), this is a standout among the group of Clarke recordings from the mid-2010s. © TiVo
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Classical - Released December 1, 2018 | Lyrita

Booklet
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Classical - Released December 1, 2018 | Lyrita

The rigorously intellectual, vigorously contrapuntal, brilliantly colorful, and relentlessly spiritual symphonies of Edmund Rubbra are not perhaps the first thing everybody thinks of when they think of the typical twentieth century English symphony. Not for Elgar's heart-on-the-sleeve nobility or Vaughan Williams' lump-in-the-throat sentimentality: Rubbra was strict, severe, and straight to the point -- the point being that above all, Rubbra's symphonies were about head-in-the-sky sublimity. Rubbra always has his eye on eternity, always aims to achieve the highest possible level of contrapuntal rapture. And as these two superlative Lyrita recordings show, Rubbra more often than not hits his mark. Vernon Handley with the New Philharmonia in the 1978 Second and Adrian Boult with the London Philharmonic in the 1970 Seventh both know the full measure of Rubbra's music, know its breadth and depth and heights, and can articulate its intensities and immensities in performances of power and commitment. While not easy listening like Elgar or Vaughan Williams -- imagine a leaner, lighter, modernist Bruckner and you have somewhat of an idea of what to expect -- Rubbra should be heard by anyone with an interest in the twentieth century English symphony. © TiVo
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Chamber Music - Released December 1, 2018 | Lyrita

Booklet
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Classical - Released December 1, 2018 | Lyrita

Proving that there are still forgotten twentieth century English composers deserving of being recognized, Lyrita has released the first recordings of the Cello Concerto and the Piano Concerto of William Busch. A student of Ireland and a friend of Alan Bush, Busch had a deserved dual reputation as a sharp-edged, strong-willed modernist composer and a kind-hearted and retiring man when he died in 1945 at the age of 43, leaving behind a beloved wife, two children, and an impressive but soon-forgotten body of works. This is a shame: the works here are fully worthy of joining the English standard repertoire. Busch's Piano Concerto was premiered in 1937 and dubbed by Vaughan Williams as a "masterly" work, while his Cello Concerto was premiered in 1941 under Adrian Boult, and he, too, was favorably impressed by the composer's craft and inspiration. As played here by pianist Piers Lane and cellist Raphael Wallfisch and accompanied by Vernon Handley leading the Royal Philharmonic, both works live up to these compliments. Lean, muscular music full of powerful ideas and gripping developments expressed with intensity, Busch's music is still resolutely tonal and unfailingly direct. And yet it's also deeply melodic music with expressive themes that will stick in your ear given half a chance. Both the Cello Concerto and the Piano Concerto make virtuoso demands on the soloists as well as the orchestral players, but the writing is never merely showy but rather always straight to the point without a wasted note or gesture. Imagine a more sinewy and less sarcastic Walton or a more refined and less bucolic Vaughan Williams and you'll have some idea what to expect. If you enjoy those composers' works, you'll surely enjoy Busch, as well. Lyrita's digital sound is clean, clear, colorful, and deep. © TiVo
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Classical - Released December 1, 2018 | Lyrita

Booklet
The symphonies of Arnold Bax aren't commonly heard, even in Britain, and this 1956 BBC recording of the Symphony No. 2 makes a fine place to start with them. The conductor of the BBC Symphony is Eugene Goossens, who gave the first British performance of the symphony in 1930 (the world premiere was in Boston, under Sergey Koussevitzky, the previous year), and he enters ideally into its extremes of mood and its Wagnerian sweep. You might sample the first movement, not only to hear Goossens' way with Bax's marvelous variety of orchestration in the quieter romantic passages, but also to see how you feel about the mid-'50s BBC sound, far outstripped by American studios of the period. The pairing with the Winter Legends for piano and orchestra of 1930 is a happy one: The symphony, with its evocative contrasts of moods, has the flavor of a tone poem, while the four-movement Winter Legends has aspects of a piano concerto or symphony (really one of its most fascinating aspects is the subtle role of the piano, which is more than a member of the orchestra, yet not quite a soloist). This performance also features two musicians who were young at the time and went on to stellar careers, conductor Raymond Leppard, leading the able BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra, and pianist John McCabe. A strong pick for lovers of British music of the 20th century. © TiVo