Flaming June: English songs and music for summer (CD)

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Various Artists

The intensity and the passion of the cover painting, 'Flaming June' by Frederic, Lord Leighton, is matched by sultry early twentieth century English art songs and by classic and rare recordings of some of the finest English orchestral music in a programme created to evoke the smouldering intensity of a fine English summer. Includes 'June' by Roger Quilter and works by Delius, Howells and others.

Frederic Leighton was born in Scarborough, Yorkshire, not so very far from the birthplace of his younger contemporary, Frederick Delius. Both men led international lives, Leighton in particular travelling widely as a child with his family. His grandfather was court physician to Czar Alexander I of Russia. Leighton studied in Brussels, Paris and Frankfurt. Delius, similarly, was not restricted to a conventional English academic and musical training. His family had Prussian origins, he was born in Yorkshire, but his most formative years were spent in Florida, before he finally settled in France. Like Monet at Giverny, Delius kept a magnificent garden at his house near Fontainbleau in Paris, and the colours and scents of flowers provided him with inspiration for many works, which nevertheless remain quintessentially English in feeling, Delius' exotic career notwithstanding. Leighton's paintings exhibit a similar effect: all the overtones and experiences of a broadly cultured man of the world are there, but his paintings still remain somehow curiously and unmistakably English.

The turn of the twentieth century was an exciting artistic period. The works of Roger Quilter, while almost entirely consisting of miniatures such as these songs, reveal a new musical sensitivity, and an impassioned embrace of the new, emotional style of composing: a musical equivalent perhaps of the new awareness of the human state which was being explored by Jung and Freud. This passion and intensity, clearly visible in Leighton's painting 'Flaming June' is easily heard in the swaying, fluid music of Delius. Herbert Howells, too, explored some emotional extremes in his music, whether writing in his favourite metier of church music, or, as here in 'King David', music for the drawing room or concert hall. Sir Edward Elgar, of course, quickly became a national institution, and he is famed perhaps above all else for his nationalistic music such as the 'Pomp and Circumstance' marches. But he too, had a far more subtle side, as the 'Wand of Youth' Suite shows: delicate orchestration, a true sense of fantasy and clear musical caricatures of his chosen subjects whether it be fairy pipers, sleep or 'antique' dances such as the menuet. The 'Slumber scene' is perhaps a musical equivalent of 'Flaming June'. Perhaps the clearest musical equivalent on the album though, is Delius' extraordinarily passionate 'Walk to the Paradise Garden', an extract from one of his seven operas.

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1. Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal - Roger Quilter (1877-1953)
2. Summer Night on the River - Frederick Delius (1862-1934)
3. June - Roger Quilter
4. Summer Evening - Frederick Delius
5. Love's Philosophy - Roger Quilter
6. The Walk to the Paradise Garden - Frederick Delius
From 'A Village Romeo and Juliet'
7. King David - Herbert Howells (1892-1983)
8. On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring - Frederick Delius
9. A Song Before Sunrise - Frederick Delius
10. Wand of Youth Suite No 1 Op1/A - Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
Overture - Serenade - Minuet - Sundance - Fairy Pipers - Slumber Scene -
Fairies and Giants

Programme includes restored historic recordings
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham,
Penelope Martin-Smith soprano
Martin Souter piano

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