Tuesday, October 14, 2014

John Foulds - Three Mantras from Avatara - Lyra Celtica (Concerto for Voice & Orchestra) - Apotheosis - Mirage

Few of John Fould's large-scale orchestral works were played or published when he was alive sadly. His lush and mystically charged works spring from the influence of the late Romantics, such as Elgar, yet they often also have a strong impressionistic quality, which puts Foulds much closer to Holst, Ravel, or, at his strangest, even Scriabin. The Three Mantras from the unfinished opera Avatara, the concerto for voice and orchestra Lyra Celtica, the quasi-concerto for violin Apotheosis, and the "music-poem" Mirage represent Foulds' unique blending of exotic scales and folk themes with European symphonic styles-perhaps not comprehensible to his contemporaries (In the mid 1890s, before he was 20, Foulds was already using quarter-tones in his compositions..) but easy to appreciate now as a visionary approach at the time.


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!




Anonymous said...

Gracias por Foulds,Master Jedi Tzadik,es a great composer,sublime and transcendental.Mis cálidos saludos,amigo de las musas.Tapirman.

Tzadik said...

Hola Tapirman, yes I agree his music is sublime and transcendental indeed! Gracias por su entusiasmo continuado ti :)