LENNOX BERKELEY: Symphony No. 4. MICHAEL BERKELEY: The Garden of Earthly Delights. Cello Concerto.
Alban Gerhardt, cellist; BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Richard Hickox, cond.
CHANDOS CHSA 5014 (F) TT: 65:09 (5 channel) (HYBRID)

VAUGHAN WILLIAMS: Symphony No. 5 in D Major. Valiant-for-truth. The Pilgrim Pavement (Carys Lane, soprano; Ian Watson, organ). Hymn-tune Prelude on Song 13 by Orando Gibbons (arr. for string orchestra by Helen Glatz). The Twenty-third Psalm (arr. by John Churchill) (Carys Lane, soprano). Prelude and Fugue in C minor (Malcolm Hicks, organ)
London Symphony Orch/Richard Hickox, cond.
CHANDOS CHSA 5004 (F) (TT: 70:56 (5 channel) (HYBRID)

Two distinguished to the growing catalog of multi-channel issues by Chandos. Continuing their recordings of music of Lennox Berkeley (1903-1989) and his son Michael (b. 1948), we have this splendid disk offering the premiere recording of the elder's final symphony written 1977-1978 on a commission from the Royal Philharmonic who premiered it in 1978 in London. It's a short symphony (27:08) with a theme and set of variations for the center movement. Doubtless for many the highpoint of this disk will be Michael's imaginative The Garden of Earthly Delights commissioned by the BBC and premiered in 1998 here also recorded for the first time. Scored for a very large orchestra, it features a "lion's roar" sound produced by friction on a cord within a resonant drum (that's the way it's described in CD notes), plus three soloists positioned in different parts of the hall playing violin, soprano saxophone and trombone but doubling on claves, rattles and tam-tams. The 21-minute work deicts the famous triptych by Renissance artist Hieronymus Bosch—the innocence of 'The Garden of Eden,' the experience of 'Carnal Knowledge' and the retribution of 'Hell.' The charming, light-hearted Cello Concerto is welcome addition to the multi-channel catalog.

Richard Hickox' Chandos Vaughan Williams series has been appropriately widely acclaimed and here we have his beautiful recording of Symphony No. 5 coupled with premiere recordings of three works, two of them featring soprano Carys Lane. There's not much sonic showoff material in most of this music but audiophiles will relish the massed brass/orchestra/organ sonorities of the C minor prelude and fugue.

Both of these CDs offer exemplary sound with the orchestra in front, ambient sound elsewhere—except in Earthly Delights where the three soloists are carefully positioned. Recommended!

R.E.B. (September 2003)