Victorian Concert Overtures
Through no particular fault of their own, the works of many composers prominent in British musical life a century or so ago have fallen into virtual oblivion, and this new release stands as a fitting monument to such neglect. Inevitably, the music encompasses a wide horizon; from gripping melodrama to cheap jingoism (as in the ridiculous Britannia Overture, which concludes this disc)—but it all makes fascinating, and often entertaining listening.
The overture Chevy Chace by George Macfarren would undoubtedly merit the occasional revival today, with its lively rhythms and memorable tunes. True enough, Macfarren does not conceal his admiration for Beethoven's Seventh Symphony here, but suffice it to say that both Mendelssohn and Wagner conducted this engaging work. Romeo and Juliet by Hugo Pierson sounds positively jaunty, and whilst technically secure, is better forgotten. Sullivan's Macbeth, however, is a splendid concert overture, although not as colourful as his ebullient Di ballo, which surely deserved inclusion in this collection.
Frederick Corder, a prominent academic, as well as a composer of some note, was a staunch disciple of Liszt and Wagner, as is readily apparent from the sonorous orchestration employed in his overture Prospero, but any links with Shakespeare's The Tempest seem decidedly tenuous from the music. Although Elgar later described his Froissart as ''shameless in its rude young health'', this was his first orchestral triumph, composed for the 1890 Worcester festival. It is certainly the most familiar item here and receives a noble performance. The Overture to an Unwritten Tragedy by Parry is little more than a lugubrious disappointment in spite of having elicited the admiration of Elgar, whilst the final item, Britannia, by Mackenzie now sounds comical in spite of its ingenious use of Dr Arne's famous tune!
The English Northern Philharmonia is an accomplished body and under David Lloyd-Jones plays with admirable skill and vitality. This praiseworthy Hyperion disc certainly deserves the consideration of all serious devotees of English music.'