Classical Reissue Reviews
Anthony Collins Conducts British Music – Works of SULLIVAN, GARDINER, VAUGHAH WILLIAMS & DELIUS – Beulah ELGAR: Falstaff; Intro & Allegro; Serenade for Strings – LSO/Collins – Beulah
Published on January 2, 2009
ELGAR: Falstaff; Introduction and Allegro for Strings; Serenade for Strings – (London SO Anthony Collins) – Pomp and Circumstance Nos 1 & 4; Imperial March – London SO /Sir Malcolm Sargent – Beulah 4PD15; 76:05 [www.eavb.co.uk] ****:
Here is one new release, and one to be snapped up quickly as it is going out of print – though both are available, in Europe at least, on iTunes for download. Both bring back old favorites from the Decca ffrr LP days, all in very fine performances.
The new issue has Anthony Collins conducting the New Symphony Orchestra in Sullivan’s effervescent Overture di Ballo, which sparkles like vintage champagne, and Balfour Gardiner’s (ancestor of John Eliot Gardiner), pastoral Shepherd Fennell Dance, followed by an honorary Brit for these purposes (as he was born and educated in Australia) Percy Grainger’s Shepherd’s Hey – these last drawing on the English folk music idiom. The former comes from Wessex, the latter from the Cotswolds.
Collins’ performance of the Tallis Fantasia is quite superb; there is depth to the sound, so essential in this work, commissioned for and to be played in Gloucester Cathedral during the Three Choirs Festival in 1910. Time stands still while listening to this gorgeous music. Equally well played is the Fantasia on Greensleeves with excellent flute soloist. The Delius works come from another Decca LXT LP, much reissued both on LP and CD, rightly highly regarded (though in Beecham’s shadow) and never sounding better.
Soon to vanish from sale is Collins’ magnificent account of Falstaff, that half-hour somewhat Straussian yet always English symphonic study. Again, the acoustics of the much-missed Kingsway Hall allow the orchestra to bloom in this early 1950s recording. The bucolic revelry, touching interludes and Falstaff’s Death are so well done, Collins’ experience in the cinema proving an asset in revealing the colour in this work.
The Introduction and Allegro for Strings gets a virtuoso performance here, with superb ensemble and exceptional pacing; the recorded balance is again excellent. The Serenade, inspiration for so much British Light Music, is self-effacing and charming, with that touch of melancholy with a stiff upper lip.
To conclude the programme, Sir Malcolm Sargent gives ebullient performances of a couple of Pomp and Circumstance Marches, rather out of fashion now, and the Imperial March, a postcard from days long ago, and still to be enjoyed.
Despite their age the recordings – made from 1952 to 1956 – really do sound very well, a credit to the Decca producers and engineers of the day, Kenneth Wilkinson, Victor Olof and James Walker. Though issued to sound at their best through a single speaker, the sound through two is equally impressive. Most highly recommended!
– Peter Joelson