John Foulds - Hellas, A Suite on Ancient Greece - Three Mantras from Avatara - Pasquinade Symphonique No. 2 - April-England
On this disc too (a much earlier recording than the Warner disc which was the previous post) from 1993, Lyrita records) we are given the opportunity to explore some of John Fould's finest 'serious' works, which displays Foulds as the innovator, mystic and, in the short Overture Le Cabaret, Op. 72a, entertainer. After the breezy, light-hearted merry-romp of Le Cabaret (originally part of his incidental music for Sacha Guitry's play Deburau, based on the life of the nineteenth-century French mime artist Jean-Gaspard Deburau), we come to one of his last surviving pieces for orchestra (many of his late compositions, composed in India where he died in 1939, remain lost), the ''Pasquinade Symphonique'' No. 2, Op. 98, which is here receiving its first ever recording. Foulds planned three works with this title, which would have eventually formed a suite, or Symphony in Pasquinade form. The first of these was subtitled the ''Classical'', the third, had he lived to complete it, would have been the ''Modernist'', and this one—the slow movement of the suite—is subtitled the ''Romantic''. The work has a striking, immediate appeal, despite the many influences that seem to tumble forth in quick succession (everything from Sibelius to Puccini). Michael Oliver, when reviewing Pearl's excellent recording of two of his string quartets (3/88), described him as ''garrulous, omnivorous magpie of a composer'', and it is true that by nature he was an insatiable eclectic. However, even when the influences seem to be at their most apparent, as in the highly Respighian April-England, the listener is always acutely aware of Foulds's own distinctive voice.
The remaining pieces on the disc reveal the mystical side of Foulds's creativity. The suite entitled "Hellas, for double string orchestra, harp and percussion", dates from 1932, and is an arrangement of earlier piano pieces from 1910 and 1915. This piece is full of mystery and one I enjoy quite a bit; any work scored for double string orchestra (esp. as the British do it) usually makes me melt! Although the suite is clearly an evocation of ancient Greece, the modal writing and scoring for strings also give it an unmistakable English feel. All but the last movement ''Corybantes'' are in slow, measured time and exert a hypnotic, compelling spell over the listener. The most substantial work on the disc, and possibly one of Foulds's most powerful and important creations, are the Three Mantras Op. 61b (also recorded on the Warner disc I posted) These are the only surviving remnants from his aborted opera on Indian myths, Avatara, which he worked on for a period of ten years (1910-20) and which, as Malcolm MacDonald says in his excellent booklet-notes, remains shrouded in mystery. The outer Mantras (representing Action and Will respectively), both brimming with memorable ideas and invigorating rhythmic invention, are Foulds at his most dynamic, whilst the central Mantra (Bliss), an extended slow movement of some 13 minutes incorporating a wordless female choir, is a captivating and magical movement of great beauty. Enjoy...
"Here, we are given the opportunity to explore some of his finest 'serious' works, which reveal Foulds as the innovator, mystic and, in the short Overture Le Cabaret, entertainer. The most substantial works on the disc are the Three Mantras...the only surviving remnants from his aborted opera on Indian myths, Avatara. The central Mantra (Bliss), an extended slow movement of some 13 minutes incorporating a wordless female chorus, is a captivating and magical movement of great beauty. Barry Wordsworth and the LPO respond to Fould's music with verve, commitment and enthusiasm, and the recording is of the highest Lyrita standard." Michael Stewart, Gramophone