Theatre Delius: Brigg Fair/Paris/Piano Concerto - Leighton: Symphony No. 1/Piano Concerto No. 3 - Arnold: Clarinet Concerto / Benjamin: film music / Lucas: Film music / Tan Dun: Concerto for Orchestra/Symphonic Poem on Three Notes/Orchestral

DELIUS: Brigg Fair. Piano Concerto in C minor. Idylle de printemps. Paris (A Nocturne).
Howard Shelley, piano; Royal Scottish National Orch/Sir Andrew Davis, cond.
CHANDOS CD 10742 TT: 75:35
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LEIGHTON: Symphony No. 1, Op. 42. Piano Concerto No. 3, Op. 57 "Concerto estivo."
Howard Shelley, piano; BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Martyn Brabbins, cond.
CHANDOS CD 10608 TT: 73:03
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STANFORD: Clarinet Concerto, Op. 80. FINZI: Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra. ARNOLD: Clarinet Concerto No. 2, Op. 115.
Michael Collins, clarinet/conductor; BBC Symphony Orch.
CHANDOS CD 10739 TT: 65:45
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BENJAMIN: Suite from The Conquest of Everest, The Storm Clouds Cantata from The Man Who Knew Too Much, Waltz and Hyde Park Galop from An Ideal Husband. LUCAS: Portrait of The Amethyst from Yangtse Incident. Dedication from Portrait of Clare. Prelude and Dam Blast from The Dam Busters. Stage Fright Rhapsody from Stage Fright. Suite from Ice Cold In Alex. This Is York. March-Prelude from Target For Tonight.
BBC National Ortchestra of Wales/Rumon Gamba, cond.
CHANDOS CD 10713 TT: 67:58
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TAN DUN: Symphonic Poem on Three Notes (2012). Orchestral Theatre (1990). Concerto for Orchestra (2012).
Hong Kong Philharmonic Orch/Tan Dun, cond.
NAXOS CD 8.570608 TT: 64:01
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One surely never could accuse Chandos of neglecting music by British composers! Their catalog is filled with treasures including definitive performances of all of Sir Malcolm Arnold's symphonies, as well as works of Alwyn, Bax, Bridge, Britten, Delius, Elgar, Holst, Stanford and, of course, Vaughan Williams. This new Delius collection featuring SirAndrew Davis and the BBC Wales National Orchestra is another winner. It begins with a Delius favorite, Brigg Fair. Sir Thomas Beecham premiered Paris in 1908 and in 1934 recorded it with the London Philharmonic; he made a second recording about two decades later with the Royal Philharmonic, which I treasured for many years. This resplendent new Chandos performance matches Beecham's recordings, and this neglected score emerges with new mysterious beauty. Benno Moiseiwitsch made the first commercial recording of the Piano Concerto in 1946; the same year Beecham recorded it with his wife, Betty Humby Beecham, as soloist. Moiseiwitsch's 1955 live Proms recording has been issued on BBC Legends (REVIEW), a label that also issued a 1981 Proms performance featuring Clifford Curzon. This new recording with Howard Shelley is among the best, and has the advantage of superb sonics., A brief gem is Idylle de printemps composed in 1889, a lovely depiction of a verdant nature scene. Beecham liked it but never got around to performing it, and the premiere wasn't until 1995 conducted by David Lloyd-Jones who made the premiere recording at that time. This Chandos CD is a superb addition to the Delius catalog.

The label continues their commendable series of orchestral music of Kenneth Leighton with this major issue containing two large-scale works, Symphony No. 1, and Piano Concerto No. 3. Those who know this composer primarily from his choral and vocal music will be surprised by the sense of doom and despair heard in Symphony No. 1, which had its premiere in 1965. There are three movements, the second a sardonic scherzo, a welcome if foreboding respite from the dark intensity of the outer sections. Much of this music is reminiscent of Sir Malcolm Arnold in his darkest mood, and I say that as a compliment. The symphony ends softly in resolved tragedy, concluding a joyless journey. Concerto No. 3 supposedly represents the joys of nature during the summer in 1969. In three movements, it combines elements of syncopated jazz, but there is an underlying tension, and again we hear the composer's dark innermost feelings.Again Howard Shelley is the dependable pianist, and Martyn Brabbins and the superb BBC Wales Orchestra are in top form. Another major issue!

The brilliant clarinetist Michael Collins is a virtuoso both as soloist and conductor of clarinet concertos of Stanford, Finzi and Arnold. The serenity and beauty of the first two are shattered by Arnold's audacious Concerto No. 2. This dates from 1974, commissioned by Benny Goodman who played the premiere. It is a remarkable work with an intense, brooding center movement and a dazzling, jazzy finale. Don't miss this one.

Chandos continues their distinguished film music series with this stunning CD of film music by Australian-born Arthur Benjamin (1893-1960) and Leighton Lucas (1903-1982) performed by the BBC Wales Orchestra directed by Rumon Gamba. Benjamin, best-known for his light music (particularly Jamaican Rumba), composed music for many films and is perhaps known most among classical listeners for his cantata The Storm Clouds written for the 1934 Alfred Hitchcock film The Man Who Knew Too Much. This is the massive choral work being performed in Royal Festival Hall at the end of which there was to be an assassination. When this movie was remade by Alfred Hitchcock in 1956, Bernard Hermann wrote a new score but it was decided to keep the cantata composed by Leighton—Hermann said he "couldn't do it better." In this collection we have an abundant supply of fanfares, marches, battle scenes, love music and soaring title music from various mostly forgotten films, many premiere recordings, all brilliantly played and spectacularly recorded. Chandos has done it again!

The major Chinese composer of the century, Tan Dun, studied with Toru Takemitsu and Edgard Varése, but developed his own style which is influenced not only by his teachers, but by John Cage, Steve Reich and Philip Glass. He has received many awards and his music has been performed by major artists including Yo Yo Ma and Lang Lang. Dun has written several operas including The First Emperor premiered at the Met in December 2006 with Plácido Domingo in the title role (available on DVD). Composing music for the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon added to Dun's fame. This new Naxos CD offers three major works: Symphonic Poem on Three Notes (2012), Orchestral Theatre (1990) and Concerto for Orchestra (2012). The latter has an elaborate program detailed by the composer in his program notes, three "journeys" and adventures based generally on music for his opera Marco Polo. Throughout all of thius music we hear unusual percussive sounds made by folk instruments, car wheels and brakes, stones, varied percussion instruments, and human voices, all with sparsely used sounds of a regular symphony orchestra. It's often fascinating to hear, and bursts of sound seem to emerge from nowhere. I find a little of it goes a long way. We can be sure we are hearing definitive performances with the composer conducting the fine Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra whose music director is the remarkable Dutchman Jaap van Zweden The vivid sonics do justice to this unusual music. Thank you, Naxos!

R.E.B. (January 20130