Foulds: Three Mantras, etc.

Foulds: Three Mantras, etc.

by Sakari Oramo
     
 

Listening to the four brilliant works by the British composer John Foulds (1880-1939) collected on this disc, it's hard to fathom why his music hasn't been properly appreciated sooner. Colorful, evocative, and often quite exciting, it is a bit more eccentric than the work of Foulds's more widely known English contemporaries, such as Vaughan Williams or Holst, but it's… See more details below

Overview

Listening to the four brilliant works by the British composer John Foulds (1880-1939) collected on this disc, it's hard to fathom why his music hasn't been properly appreciated sooner. Colorful, evocative, and often quite exciting, it is a bit more eccentric than the work of Foulds's more widely known English contemporaries, such as Vaughan Williams or Holst, but it's scarcely any more "difficult" for the listener. It may well be unusually difficult to perform, but today's orchestras are accustomed to far worse, and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra rises splendidly to its challenges in these recordings. Speaking of challenges, soprano Susan Bickley has mastered more than her share for Foulds's Lyra Celtica, a concerto for (wordless) voice with orchestra that combines Celtic influences with the microtonal scales of Indian music -- both of which were among the composer's persistent fascinations -- and expresses the breadth of Foulds's unique musical imagination. His Three Mantras, intended as preludes to a never-completed Sanskrit opera, Avatara, are even more striking. The kaleidoscopic orchestration of the first movement gives way to a time-stopping meditation in the second (complete with wordless women's chorus, with shades of "Neptune" from Holst's Planets) and an inexorable rhythmic fantasia in the third (like Holst's "Mars," but more unpredictable). The two earlier works included here are more conventional, but both belong to a genre invented by Foulds: the "Music-Poem," which differs from the common "tone poem" by more closely imitating the division of poetry into stanzas. Apotheosis is an elegiac composition for violin and orchestra; Daniel Hope does the solo honors here with the same dark intensity he has brought to his other recent concerto recordings. Finally, Mirage, one of many works that was never publicly performed in Foulds's lifetime, is ambitious both musically and philosophically. Its program addresses human ambition in the face of "Immutable Nature," but its metaphysics take a backseat to sumptuous orchestration and the interplay of abundant melodic ideas. Less original than the Mantras -- Richard Strauss is the most palpable of influences here -- Mirage is nonetheless an engaging and satisfying work that will repay the interest of any listener willing to enter into the singular musical mind of John Foulds.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Blair Sanderson
Known for his popular salon pieces, John Foulds was much less recognized for his large orchestral works, and few of these were played or published when he was alive. His lush and mystically charged works spring from the influence of the late Romantics, such as Strauss and Elgar, yet they also have a strong Impressionistic quality, which puts Foulds much closer to Holst, Ravel, or, at his strangest, even Scriabin. The "Three Mantras" from the unfinished opera "Avatara," the concerto for voice and orchestra "Lyra Celtica," the quasi-concerto for violin "Apotheosis," and the "music-poem" "Mirage" represent Foulds' unique blending of exotic scales and folk themes with European symphonic styles -- perhaps not comprehensible to his contemporaries, but easy to appreciate now as a visionary approach for the time. Mezzo soprano Susan Bickley is fascinating to hear as she performs the microtonal vocal part of "Lyra Celtica" with grace and apparent ease, and violinist Daniel Hope plays "Apotheosis" with an appropriate balance of sweetness and dark melancholy. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, led by Sakari Oramo, is evocative and often quite dazzling, and the CBSO's Youth Chorus is wonderfully pure and haunting in the second movement of "Three Mantras." Warner's sound quality is decent, though a little soft.
Classic FM Magazine - Jeremy Nicholas
Substantial, energetically-scored pieces, persuasively performed by Oramo and his Birmingham players.... There's no illusion about the quality of the performances and recorded sound: first-class.

Product Details

Release Date:
01/25/2005
Label:
Warner Classics
UPC:
0825646152520
catalogNumber:
61525
Rank:
240081

Tracks

  1. Three Mantras from Avatara, for orchestra, Op. 61b  - John Foulds  -  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra  -  Sakari Oramo  -  City of Birmingham Symphony Youth Chorus
  2. Lyra Celtica, concerto for voice & orchestra, Op. 50  - John Foulds  - Susan Bickley  -  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra  -  Sakari Oramo
  3. Apotheosis (Elegy), for violin & orchestra (Music Poem No. 4), Op. 18  - John Foulds  -  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra  -  Sakari Oramo  - Daniel Hope
  4. Mirage, for orchestra (Music Poem No. 5), Op. 20  - John Foulds  -  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra  -  Sakari Oramo

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