Sally in our Alley
Sir Roger de Coverley Geoffrey Bush
Consort Music Delius
Air and Dance Elgar
The Holy Boy Vaughan Williams
Charterhouse Suite Warlock
Serenade Haydn Wood
English Northern Philharmonia conducted by David Lloyd-Jones
CD No: NAXOS 8.555068 Duration: Reviewed: May 2001
English String Miniatures Volume 2
Reviewed by Colin Anderson
A thoroughly delightful CD this second volume of English String Miniatures, one which presents several gems, reminding of English composers mastery of string-writing and the indivisibility between formal structures, folksong and light expression. The latter is well represented by Geoffrey Bushs Consort Music, six charming movements, the epitome of afternoon tea and blue skies; the Valse has a habit of returning to the memory. So too Slow Air from VWs Charterhouse Suite, a poignant baroque-ish endless melody of quiet reflection. Elgars Sospiri (a harp added to the strings) is among his most eloquent short-form commentaries; a soliloquy written as the First War began.
Deliuss pastoral is also from this time, its melancholy touchingly conveyed here (the orchestras leader should have been credited) - intimately turned and emotionally burdened, it pairs nicely with Warlocks radiant Serenade written for Deliuss 60th-birthday, which Lloyd-Jones keeps on the move (in keeping with Warlocks wishes it seems); this avoids heaviness and allows twilight colours to subtly tinge this evermore Delian rhapsody.
Haydn Woods Fantasy-Concerto, at 15 minutes, is hardly a miniature; it is though undemanding listening written with skill and an easy lyricism but further playing suggests one could underestimate its melodic contours, rugged vitality and songful centre. The meditative The Holy Boy is quite familiar; its sweet melody retains its simple beauty and avoids becoming sanctimonious.
Lovely though all these pieces are, its Frank Bridges three arrangements that stand out; they are masterpieces of their kind wonderfully laid-out for strings, the imagination with which Bridge treats these tunes is a tribute to their indelible qualities and his own, still underrated I suspect, abilities as a composer. Lloyd-Jones shapes Sally in our Alley with just the right amount of heart-tugging while bringing muscle and vitality to Sir Roger de Coverley (Boult, Lyrita LP, unsurpassed in this though) and a free-flowing Cherry Ripe.
Performances are excellent. The ENPs strings are nimble and articulate with plenty of sound-depth and innate feeling in the slower numbers; David Lloyd-Jones loves this music and it shows. Allowing that fortissimo upper strings are a tad glaring, the sound is spacious, detailed and well balanced between the string-sections; the bass is especially telling.