I must confess to being “conflicted“ about this admittedly fine CD from Chandos – conflicted because, while marketing is not essentially part of my remit, I can’t help but wonder who actually buys this sort of repertoire. Like virtually everything Chandos produces, the sound, content, playing, conducting, presentation and liner notes are excellent but, nevertheless, is there a limit to how many CDs of mainly music by relatively obscure composers the market can absorb? It’s certainly not meant to belittle Rumon Gamba and his fine band. That said, this release could be called Ecstatic Solitude or Fifty Shades of Home Counties Pastoral Reveries.
All the scores are lovely, tonal and mostly gentle and come into the highest category of 20th-century music for people who think they don’t like 20th-century music. All the more admirable as some was composed long after Schoenberg’s launch into atonality and The Rite of Spring.
My favourite moments were, in no particular order, Frederic Austin’s Spring in its entirety, the Elgarian nobilmente march in the tragic Ivor Gurney’s A Gloucester Rhapsody (yes, I know Gloucestershire isn’t, strictly speaking, in the Home Counties) and the dramatic passages in the splendidly named Sir Granville Bantock’s The Witch of Atlas. I also loved The Solent by Vaughan Williams, the only well-known composer included.