John Fould's Three Mantras (from the unfinished opera Avatara) previously appeared on the Lyrita label in a performance by Barry Wordsworth and the London Philharmonic. That disc was a revelation really as it introduced many listeners (myself included) to Foulds' brilliant and blazingly original music. However Sakari Oramo's recording reveals even more wonders and insights. While Wordsworth did a fine job of holding the piece together (no easy task in the first Mantra, Of Action and Vision, with its cavalcade of swirling rhythms and kaleidoscopic sonorities), he sounds like he's playing it safe compared to Oramo, who leaps headlong into the music and whips up a frenzy that the City of Birmingham Symphony maintains with amazing exactitude. Just as impressive, but in a different way, is the following Mantra, Of Bliss and Vision, where Foulds employs microtonal scales to evoke an aura of musical mysticism rivaling that found in "Neptune" from Holst's The Planets. Oramo's feeling for color and timbre makes the piece sound surprisingly modern indeed, and imo it could easily be a work by a modern-day composer willing to compose in a "listener friendly" way, in the best possible sense, intriguing, beautiful (and non-pretentious, unlike certain contemporary composers) and quite the refreshing sonic experience.
Foulds' Lyra Celtica is a strikingly beautiful concerto for voice and orchestra featuring sublime wordless singing by mezzo-soprano Susan Bickley. Next comes Apotheosis (Elegy), a compact yet serenely moving violin concerto dedicated to Joseph Joachim, played with considerable sensitivity and nuance by Daniel Hope. Finally, Mirage is an epic tone-poem drenched in post-Wagnerian late romanticism, showing a completely different side of Foulds' musical personality. Enjoy!