Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Coleridge, Taylor, Samuel. !875-1912. Harrison, Julius. (1885-1963) Orchestral Works.

From my collection.
Bought in 2010.
First listen: 8-4-2010.
Second listen: 8-4-2014.
Third listen: 16-5-2017.
Recording dates: 1994.
Recording venues: Watford Town Hall.
Recording engineer: Tryggvi Tryggvason.
Running time: 61:37.
Relevance to me: Well worth having.

Works.

Coleridge.
Legend, (Konzertstuck), opus 14. (1897)
Romance in G, opus 39. (1899)
Violin Concerto in G minor, opus 80. (1912)

Harrison.

Bredon Hill, A rhapsody for Violin and orchestra. (1941)

Performers.

Lorraine McAslan, violin.
London PO, Nicholas Braithwaite.

Taylor is a composer who did impress me recently with a fine Clarinet quintet, on the Naxos label, and purely by accident I stumbled over this Lyrita recording with some orchestral works, and more importantly his violin concerto. I had it in my possession since 2010, but only now I had it on my pile to be listen a third time. On this disc also a work by the composer Julius Harrison. I really never heard of him, never saw any reference, or a pointer in the many booklets I have read.  He was a much asked conductor in the first part of his life, but due to deafness, he switched to full time composing.
The pieces by Taylor are fine examples of his art. Mainly late romantic in nature, with little in the way of modernity. Sweet toned, easy to approach melodies, sometimes rhythmically muscular, but most of the time it bubbles along infectiously. There is little in the way of introspection,  and all melodic and harmonic invention is a tad predictable. The range of expression is limited, but there are moments of great beauty, especially in the violin concerto. I wished it would have been more enterprising, but as it stands the music could not keep my attention all the time. There are fine dynamic shadings especially in the second movement. Its mainly sweet centered, but that's one of the trademarks of this composer. The rest is compelling and vivid and tempos are spot on. Opus 14 and 39 are all in the same vein.
Harrison's piece is a more robust work, and has more flesh on the bones. There is simply a greater sense of clarity, and a integration of different elements that keeps you listening to it. Melodically it is not far away from Taylor's music, but it is a more complex work, difficult to play, and has a breathtaking intensity that grabs your attention. It plumbs the depths Taylor is avoiding, and thereby creates a gravitas which to my ears cuts more wood. The themes have more breath, and in the end that is a winning strategy. But what is also influencing the outcome of my listening session is the recording itself and indeed the performance as such. Let me be frank, the sound is clear as a bell, and detailed but that are all the nice things I am going to say about it. The sound is frontal and confronting in a very unpleasant way. Lorraine Mc Aslan usually has my deepest admiration, but in this case I withhold my praise. She is positioned far in front of the orchestra, so you might imagine what kind of effect that has on your ears. Furthermore her ataque is of such a character that I would call it aggressive, which is the death of Taylor sensitive scoring. Same with the orchestra. Braithwaite is a fine conductor, but in this case he misjudged the music, and a very experienced engineer did the rest to sink the boat.. Acoustically I think this is a badly judged project. Not often do I find Lyrita cd's faulty in this respect, but this is certainly the first one for me.





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