British Tone Poems, Vol. 2 delivers on quality

This volume of British Tone Poems features outstanding works by lesser-known composers and lesser-known works by outstanding composers. Either way, it’s a win-win for the listener, especially with these performances.

Rumon Gamba and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales deliver beautiful and insightful performances of a mixed bag of music.

This round features two world-premiere recordings. And the program includes works that move beyond the pastoral English countryside that inspired so many of the selections in the first volume.

“Kinder Scout” by Patrick Hadley is one of those debut recordings. It’s a depiction of a Derbyshire peak and has the spaciousness and open sound of a Copland landscape.

Frederic Cowen’s 1903 “Rêverie,” the other recording debut work, has a decidedly old-fashioned sound. Cowen’s melody is sweetly sentimental, almost bordering on salon music.

Dorothy Howell’s “Lamia” was based on Greek myth. This 1918 work earned her the nickname “the English Strauss.” There are parallels to “Salome,” with its exotic-sounding chords and dreamy melodies with a hint of unease.

I wasn’t familiar with Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Harnham Down.” It’s a quite early work (1904). RVW’s style hadn’t quite jelled, but all the elements are there.

Arthur Bliss’s 1921 “Mêlée fantastique” was written in memory of a stage designer, and also seems to pay homage to the Ballets Russes scores of Stravinsky.

On the whole, this release has a more varied program than British Tone Poems, Vol. 1. It’s a worthy addition to the series, and one I enjoyed on its own merits. I’m intrigued to see what Maestro Gamon uncovers for Volume 3.

British Tone Poems, Vol. 2

Works by: Dorothy Howell, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Arthur Bliss, Frederic Cowen, Eric Fogg, Eugene Goossens, John Folds, and Patrick Hadley

BBC National Orchestra of Wales; Rumon Gamba, conductor
Chandos CHAN 10981

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