- Fantasia for orchestra (incomplete)
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The 2016 release of this album commemorated George Butterworth's death in the Battle of the Somme one hundred years earlier. He was one of the million young men to die there, and heavy indeed is the irony of his setting of A.E. Housman's "The lads in their hundreds." That song cycle, as well as the "Suite for String Quartette," are orchestrated here by the present conductor, Kriss Russman, the idea apparently being to enlarge the rather slender corpus of orchestral music by Butterworth. But it's hard to argue that either work is added to by being orchestrated. The "Six Songs from 'A Shropshire Lad'" tend to emphasize a certain over-literal quality in Butterworth's settings. There is also a completion by Russman of an "Orchestral Fantasia" left unfinished by Butterworth and seemingly pointing in new directions. The chief attraction here is the group of short orchestral pieces -- an idyll, "The Banks of Green Willow"; the "Two English Idylls"; and the rhapsody, "A Shropshire Lad" -- entrancing mini tone poems that do indeed deserve a more secure place in the orchestral repertory. Russman and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales perform this music with uncommon commitment and care; the short orchestral pieces are both smooth and subtle. BIS engineers apparently all British, achieve beautiful results at Hoddinott Hall in Cardiff.