British Tone Poems, Vol. 1 – Luminous English Idylls

I’ll start with the bottom line. If you love the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams, Frederic Delius, and Gerald Finzi and want more of the same, buy this disc. The works may not be familiar, but they’ll take you to that same idyllic English countryside as “The First Cuckoo of Spring” or “Egdon Heath.”

This first installment of Chandos’ British Tone Poem series presents a collection of works that all deserve a place in the repertoire. Rumon Gamba and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales received glowing reviews for their Overtures from the British Isles releases.

These performances are at the same high level. Under Gamba’s direction, the orchestra’s sound has a luminous sheen, ideally suited to these impressionistic works.

For me, the highlight of the release was Ivor Gurney’s “A Gloucestershire Rhapsody.” This piece I can only describe as a pleasing amalgam of Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gerald Finzi, with a charm all its own.

Speaking of RVW, the album ends with his work, “The Solent.” This early work is seldom performed, but it should be. This quiet, introspective music rivals RVW’s similar passages in his 5th Symphony and “Pilgrim’s Progress.”

Most of these tone poems were inspired by the English countryside, and share a certain sameness of character. Listen to this album from start to finish and you’ll hear quiet, serene music with distinctively British harmonies throughout.

British Tone Poems, Vol. 1
Works by: Frederic Austin, Sir Granville Bantock, William Alwyn, Henry Balfour Gardiner, Ivor Gurney, and Ralph Vaughan Williams
BBC National Orchestra of Wales; Rumon Gamba, conductor
Chandos CHAN 10939

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