SULLIVAN: The Light of the World
Matalya Romaniw, soprano (Mary). Eleanor Dennis, soprano (Mary Magdalene /Martha). Kiuty Whately, contralto (An Angel). Robert Murray, tenor (A Disciple / Nicodemus). Ben McAteer, baritbne (Jesus). NeaL Davies, bass (A Ruler / A Pharisee / A Shepherd). Kinder Children's Choir. BBC Symphony Chorus. BBC Concert Orchestra / John Andrews, cond.
DUTTON EPOCH SACD CDLX 7356 (2 disks) TT: 2:26:28

BRIAN: The Vision of Cleopatra. Two Chora Piedes. Fantastic Variations on an Od Rhyme. Overture: For Valour.
Claudia Boyler, soprano. Angharad Lyddon, mezo-soprano. Claudio Huckle, contralto. Peter Auy, tenor. Nicholas Ansdell-Evans, organ. Chorus and Orchestra of English National Opera / Martyn Brabbins, cond.

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: The Blue Bird. Norfolk Rhapsody No 1 in E minor. Norfolk Rhapsody No. 2 in D Minor. Variations for Orchestra. Music for an EFDS Masque. Christmas Overture. MATTHEWS: Norfolk March.
Royal Scottish National Orchestra / Martin Yates, cond.

Another side of Sir Arthur Sullivan, best known for his sparkling collaborations with W. S. Gilbert in operettas such as H.M.S. Pinafore, The Mikado and The Pirates of Penance, can be experienced in his grand-scale oratorio The Light of the World. Sullivan was a deeply religious man, evident from this sincere work composed in 1873 early in his career. It was Sullivan's second oratorio; the firist, The Prodigal Son, was composed in 1869. Light of theWorld is based on the New Testament. Sullivan wrote the libretto with the assistance of George Grove. It was inspired by William Holman Hunt's popular 1853–54 painting. The premiere was at the Birmingham Festival August 27, 1873. The Light of the World was enthusiastically received by critics and audiences who compared it with Habdel's Messiah. Since that time, the work has retained respect and admiration, although it is seldom presented. It is scored for large choruses, six soloists and orchestra. This Dutton Epoch release is the world premiere recording of the original version, presented with a first-class group of soloists, fine choruses and the excellent BBC Ochestra. The recording was made April 21 - 25 in London's Warford Hall, and producers have provided a splendid, open audio picture effectively usimg all available channels. Another plus is Martin Yates' comprehensive program notes, and the complete libretto is provided in the 32-page booklet. An important and quality issue, particularly for those who love choral music. Thank you, Dutton Epoch!

British composer Havergal Brian (1876 - 1972) was incredibly prolific. Primarily self-taught, he composed 32 symphonies, five operas, two concertos, much chamber music and numerous orchestral works (he also ha two wives and ten children!). His music has been neglected by most of the musical world, surprising as is music is magnificent. Brian was strongly influenced by Mahler, Strauss and Bruckner, and often we hear military band effects. His Symp;hony No. 1, subtitled Gothic, is a two-hour masterpiece scored for huge orchestra and chorus. It had its premiere in 1961 in London, but the first large-scale performance took place in Royal Albert Hall October 31, 1966 with Sir Adrian Boult conducting (there exists recording). Dutton Epoch has been doing their part for the Brian cause, and has issued fine recordings of symphonies 2, 10, 13. 14 and 30, the cello concerto, and the symphonic work Wine of Summer. They continue with this these premiere recordings of the "tragic poem," a cantata for soloists and orchestra The Vision of Cleopatra, two choral pieces, and two works featuring the organ, Fantastic Variations on an Old Rhyme and Overture: For Valor. The Vision of Cleopatra was one of Brian's earliest works (1907). It is set to a text by Gerald Cumberland. Although it was a great success, it received few performances and with the exception of the piano reduction and vocal parts, the score was destroyed in the 1941 London Blitz. The Havergal Brian Society commissioned John Pickard to prepare an orchestration, and that is what is heard here. Pritchard obviously is an ideal man for the job, and he has provided the appropriate rich orchestral textures. The choral pieces (Requiem for the Rose / The Hag) are to poems by Robert Herrick. The two remaining work also are from the composer;s youth, and each has a relatively minimal part for the organ, an instrument favored by Brian. These performances are superb in every way. Audio is state-of-the-art, with the multi-channes providing a rich, wle-balanced presence. John Pickard provided the comprehensive program notes. Complete texts are provided. The recording was made in cooperation with the Havergal Brian Society. For more information contact their web site: Havergal Brian Society.

Rare music of Vaughan Williams is featured on this new SACD, world premiere recordings of arrangement and transcriptions by Martin Yates. We have a suite of ten brief dance movements written in 1913 for The Birds, a play by Maeterlinck The composer never orchestrated it so it is possible it never was performed. . We also have a much later work, Music for an EFDS Masque, which has two parts, Folk Dance Medley, which was edited by Yates, and Little March Suite, orchestrated by Yates. The brief Christmas Overture also is here, edited and completed by Yates. Variations for Orchestra was one of the composer's last works, composed in 1957 scored for symphonic band. It is heard here orchestrated by Gordon Jacob. The composer's two Norfolk RhRhapsodiesalso are here as edited and completed by Stephen Hogger. An oddity is David Matthews' Norfolk March, a ten-minute group of tunes apparently intended to be Vaughan Williams' Third Norfolk Rhapsody. The score disappeared during the First World War, and Matthews has done what an be done to recreate the originally. All of this music is heard in spirited performances with the superb orchestra directed by Martin Yates. Recordings were made August 17-18, 2017, and audio is of the highest quality multi-channel sound. Thanks to Dutton Epch for making available these Vaughan Williams rarities.An intriguing issue indeed¡

R.E.B. (January 2019)