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Jazz Fusion/Soul/Prog

Deodato

Prelude & Deodato 2

Ray Davies

Themes from The Exorcist, The French Connection, The Sting and other great films & Flashpoint

Hiroshima

Hiroshima & Odori

The Main Ingredient

Euphrates River

 

Dutton Epoch October/November 2017 New Releases

Leonard Bernstein, Pierre Boulez, Daniel Barenboim, Artur Rubinstein, James Levine, Lorin Maazel, Charles Gerhardt …

Dutton Epoch has revived some of the finest recordings made by CBS and RCA during the quadraphonic boom of the 1970s, and presents them across six individual SACDs.

Leonard Bernstein’s Concert for Peace, a protest at the Vietnam War, took place in Washington Cathedral during January 1973 and featured a spellbinding performance of Haydn’s Mass in Time of War. Here it’s coupled with Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic’s reading of Haydn’s Symphony No. 96, “Miracle”. James Levine conducts the London and Chicago symphony orchestras in Mahler’s First and Fourth symphonies respectively; also featured is Levine and the CSO’s recording of Brahms’s First Symphony, which has been remixed in quadraphonic sound especially for this limited edition reissue. Daniel Barenboim and Artur Rubinstein’s cycle of Beethoven piano concertos were recorded with the London Philharmonic in 1975, and are widely considered the definitive interpretations. However, the four-channel recordings were issued in Japan only and thus are extremely rare – this reissue makes available once more the quadraphonic versions of Concertos Nos. 3 & 4.

The New York Philharmonic under Pierre Boulez is heard in an all-Stravinsky programme comprising Petrushka (“immortal hero of every fair in all countries,” according to the composer), the early Scherzo Fantastique of 1907-08, Symphonies of Wind Instruments and the Diaghilev-commissioned Pulcinella Suite. Lorin Maazel and the Cleveland Orchestra present a wonderfully authoritative reading of Richard Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben, originally recorded in 1978; augmenting this reissue is Maazel conducting the New Philharmonia, the Ambrosian Singers and mezzo-soprano Yvonne Minton in Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody, recorded during November 1976 at All Saints Church, Tooting.

A disc devoted to the music of film composer Dimitri Tiomkin rounds off this release. RCA house-conductor/producer Charles Gerhardt leads the National Philharmonic Orchestra in music from Hollywood classics Lost Horizon, The Guns of Navarone, The Big Sky, The Fourposter, Friendly Persuasion and Search for Paradise. Recorded at the Kingsway Hall in brilliant, full-bodied sound by Decca engineer Kenneth Wilkinson, this reissue also includes a suite from Tiomkin’s score for The Thing from Another World, which makes its debut in quadraphonic sound.

All the music has been remastered from the original analogue tapes (stereo and quadraphonic), and these SACDs are fully compatible with standard CD players.

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Vocalion – October 2017 New Releases


Vocalion’s October 2017 release places the accent on soulful, funky sounds with a clutch of classic albums spread across three separate SACDs.

Flautist extraordinaire Dave Valentin, who passed away earlier this year (2017) at the age of 64, was not only one of the instrument’s great virtuosos but also a leading exponent of Latin jazz. Born in the South Bronx in 1952, he grew up listening to the music of such Latin icons as Johnny Pacheco, Richard Egües, Tito Rodriguez and Tito Puente. By the age of ten he was playing percussion in New York’s Latin clubs and by sixteen had enrolled at New York’s High School of Music and Art as a percussion major. Switching to flute, he studied with Hubert Laws and later joined the bands of pianist Ricardo Marrero and percussionist Manny Oquendo. Turning pro in the early ’70s, he would perform in Africa, Brazil and the Philippines, play with Latin supergroup the Fania All-Stars at Madison Square Garden and begin to receive plaudits from music industry giants such as Quincy Jones.

In 1977, Valentin was invited to play on the demo sessions for violinist Noel Pointer’s Phantazia album, which was being overseen by GRP, the production company of arranger-composer-pianist Dave Grusin and recording engineer Larry Rosen. Grusin and Rosen were so impressed with Valentin that they asked him to participate in the sessions for Grusin’s upcoming One of a Kind album. Unbeknownst to Valentin, Grusin and Rosen were also about to sign a deal with Arista Records that would see the creation of a new imprint, Arista GRP. On the lookout for artists, Grusin and Rosen immediately thought of Valentin, who quickly found himself on the receiving end of a recording contract.
Valentin’s first two albums for Arista GRP, 1978’s Legends and 1979’s The Hawk, were both critical and commercial successes, and his third album, 1980’s Land of the Third Eye, which Vocalion has reissued, continued that thread, balancing funk and R&B with the flautist’s unique brand of Latin jazz. The album contains the jazz-funk staple Sidra’s Dream, while other tracks include covers of Earth, Wind & Fire’s Fantasy and The Doobie Brothers’ Open Your Eyes, plus two Valentin originals. The flautist is backed by an all-star lineup featuring Marcus Miller and Lincoln Goines (bass guitars), Buddy Williams and Tito Marrero (drums), Dave Grusin (keyboards), Michael Viñas (guitar) and Roger Squitero (percussion). This reissue, comprising both standard PCM CD and high-resolution stereo SACD layers, marks Land of the Third Eye’s first ever appearance in CD or SACD format, and includes a lengthy liner note detailing Valentin’s career and music.

From CTI, the imprint of legendary jazz producer Creed Taylor, comes the albums Prelude and Deodato 2, both of which showcase the talents of Brazilian keyboardist-composer-arranger Eumir Deodato. A native of Rio de Janeiro, he began his career in the early ’60s working for Luiz Bonfá, Marcos Valle and Antonio Carlos Jobim before moving to the US in 1967 where he quickly made a name for himself – he would soon start arranging for luminaries such as Frank Sinatra and Milton Nascimento.

His work on Nascimento’s 1969 album Courage brought him into contact with Creed Taylor, and when Taylor set up CTI in 1971, he wasted no time in engaging Deodato’s arranging skills. Deodato’s early CTI work included his beautiful orchestrations for Astrud Gilberto and Stanley Turrentine’s 1971 album Gilberto with Turrentine, and by 1972 Deodato himself had earned a solo contract with the label. He struck gold with his first effort, the aptly titled Prelude, thanks to Creed Taylor’s penchant for getting his artists to record jazz/crossover versions of well-known classical pieces. In Deodato’s case, it was the Sunrise fanfare from Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra, which had become popular through its use in Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi epic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Deodato’s funked up, Fender Rhodes-laden reimagining of it brought both him and CTI chart success – it would become an international hit – and while it casts a long shadow over the remainder of the album, Prelude nevertheless contains several other gems. Notable among them is the Latin-flavoured jazz of Carly & Carole (Deodato’s tribute to singer-songwriters Carly Simon and Carole King) and the low-slung funk of September 13, powered by Billy Cobham’s muscular drumming.

The sequel, Deodato 2, recorded during April and May 1973, adhered to the same formula: funky originals alongside his interpretations of various classical pieces. And although it failed to emulate the success of its predecessor, Deodato 2 is arguably the better album, containing one of Deodato’s finest compositions in the dramatic Skyscrapers – sounding for all the world like a theme in search of a film – and superb jazz-rock adaptations of The Moody Blues’ Nights in White Satin and George Gershwin’s immortal Rhapsody in Blue. Both Prelude and Deodato 2 feature stellar lineups, including CTI regulars Ron Carter and Stanley Clarke (basses), Billy Cobham (drums), Hubert Laws (flute) and Airto Moreira (percussion). As well as the original stereo mixes, Vocalion’s reissue includes the quadraphonic mixes of both albums (their first ever appearance in digital format), which were made by Rudy Van Gelder at his historic studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Heard in four-channel sound, both Prelude and Deodato 2 are given new and exciting life, and rounding out this reissue is a detailed essay giving the full lowdown on Deodato and the music itself.

The final title in this batch compiles two albums fronted by music industry mogul Cecil Holmes. After a stint at the Casablanca label, where he was National Vice President and Manager of R&B Operations, he joined CBS Records in the early ’80s. As the label’s Vice President of Black Music A&R, he would spend the next ten years shaping the careers of Michael Jackson and Luther Vandross, overseeing Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing comeback and unwittingly ushering in the second coming of the boy band era when he gave New Kids On The Block their first recording contract in 1986. But before all of that, he’d been with the New York-based Buddah Records, where his acumen as an A&R man had earned him multiple industry awards and numerous gold records; he’d also been instrumental in signing Gladys Knight & The Pips and had shepherded the careers of leading artists including The Isley Brothers, Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions.

Holmes himself was no musician, so when he decided to be the frontman for an album drawing together themes from the Blaxploitation genre, he turned to arranger-composer Tony Camillo as the man who would put it all together. The result was 1973’s The Black Motion Picture Experience on the Buddah label. Credited to The Cecil Holmes Soulful Sounds, it was performed by an all-star studio orchestra (including bassist Bob Babbitt and drummer Andrew Smith) and featured mean, funky takes on Blaxploitation staples such as Isaac Hayes’s Shaft, Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly, Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man and Billy Preston’s Slaughter.
Encouraged by the album’s success (it sold a reported 100,000 copies in its first year), Holmes quickly commissioned a follow-up, Music for Soulful Lovers. Released towards the end of 1973, it looked to the then current crop of hits by soul music luminaries including Barry White, The Stylistics, Stevie Wonder, Al Green and others. And Tony Camillo was on hand once more to provide a series of groovy arrangements performed by a studio orchestra comprising many of the musicians who’d contributed to The Black Motion Picture Experience. The album also includes three original songs by Tony Camillo (two of which have Holmes himself laying down his best Barry White-style love rap), prefiguring Camillo’s own solo success with his band Bazuka, which had a US Top 10 hit in 1975 with the song Dynomite. Vocalion’s reissue marks The Black Motion Picture Experience’s and Music for Soulful Lovers’ premiere digital release, and this Hybrid SACD contains the original stereo and quadraphonic mixes of both albums.

Michael J. Dutton has remastered everything from the original tapes, ensuring that this wonderful music reaches the ears of 21st-century listeners the way it’s supposed to.

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Vocalion August SACD Release


For Vocalion’s August release, we’ve taken a deep dive in to the vaults of the RCA and Columbia labels, and surfaced with a treasure trove of recordings from the heyday of quadraphonic sound. Covering country, rock, R&B and jazz fusion, this new release of five albums across four SACDs represents Vocalion’s most varied slate of quadraphonic offerings to date.

Leading off are two albums (compiled on one SACD) from RCA country-rock stalwarts Pure Prairie League, which find the band making the most of the unlikeliest of second chances. The Ohio natives recorded two albums for RCA in 1972, but just as their star was beginning to rise, original lead vocalist Craig Fuller was jailed for draft evasion. Unable to tour without him, record sales stalled and RCA dropped the group. Flash forward a year and the remnants of the band had regrouped with ex-Sacred Mushroom vocalist and lead guitarist Larry Goshorn, and embarked on nearly 18 months of college campus touring. This would create a level of grassroots support for the group that RCA couldn’t ignore, especially when they managed to sell nearly three times as many albums as an unsigned band in 1974 as they did when they were with the label in 1972.

After signing with RCA for the second time in late 1974, the band paired up with super-producer John Boylan for the two albums that comprise this reissue, 1975’s Two Lane Highway and 1976’s If the Shoe Fits. Boylan, who’d been pivotal in Linda Ronstadt’s early success (including the recruitment of a backing band that would go on to become the Eagles) and who would produce Boston’s breakthrough debut album immediately after, was perfectly suited to taking Pure Prairie League’s road-honed interplay and elevating it with a layer of studio polish. If contemporaries like The Byrds, Poco and the Eagles were on the rock side of the country-rock railroad track, Pure Prairie League found itself a little more on the country side. Both Two Lane Highway and If the Shoe Fits have plenty of rock sensibility (and were both Billboard Top 40 hits as a result), but they also never forget where they came from, boasting plenty of pedal steel, banjo, and chicken pickin’ – not to mention guest appearances from the likes of Chet Atkins, Don Felder and Emmylou Harris. This new double album compilation marks the high-resolution debut of both the stereo and quadraphonic mixes of these albums.

Making its worldwide digital debut as part of this release is The Jimmy Castor Bunch’s 1973 hidden gem, Dimension III. To say that Castor, a multi-talented R&B singer/songwriter/producer/arranger/saxophonist (and self-proclaimed “Everything Man”), had a colourful career would be an understatement. Starting as a doo-wop singer, by the age of 15 Castor (almost by accident) had become the author of a hit single when neighbourhood friends Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers covered his own group’s I Promise To Remember as the follow-up to their smash hit Why Do Fools Fall In Love, taking the song to No. 10 in the US R&B charts in 1957. Plying his trade as an arranger and studio musician for most of the next ten years, Castor would go from doo-wop singer to sax-playing Latin soul bandleader. His new group landed a leftfield hit in 1967 with Hey Leroy (Your Mama’s Calling You), a song that perfectly paired Castor’s gonzo sense of humour with his ability to craft an irresistible groove.

Castor’s uncompromising attitude would lead to a fall out with the label that released Hey Leroy and he’d return to relative obscurity in the following years, but by late 1971 his band (now called The Jimmy Castor Bunch) had signed with RCA. His first album for the label (which one critic described as “grunge funk”) seemed destined to stay underground, but when FM radio DJs started playing the album cut Troglodyte (Cave Man) it became a word-of-mouth sensation. Released as a single in early 1972, it made it to the upper reaches of both the US Pop and R&B Top 10. A second album was rush-released by the end of the summer but underperformed, and an obvious cash-in single, (Luther the Anthropoid (Ape Man), didn’t even crack the Top 100. Castor, who feared being pigeonholed, knew he had to change things up and Dimension III was the result.

Eschewing much of the aforementioned “grunge funk” and scatological humour of his previous two RCA albums in favour of sophisticated horn and string arrangements and a stronger focus on melodic songwriting, Dimension III sees Castor employing every one of his many talents to great effect. Castor divided the album into vocal and instrumental sides, and the vocal side finds him tackling a wide array of R&B, from modern cinematic funk to sweet soul and even a little bit of the doo-wop of his youth. On the instrumental flipside, Castor stretches out as a soloist for the first time on one of his records, proving in the process that his sax playing may be the most polished of all his talents.
One of the first QuadraDisc LPs that RCA ever released, Dimension III holds the unique distinction of being a “single inventory” title, meaning the four-channel quadraphonic mix was the only mix of the album done, as the label wanted to tout the backwards compatibility of quadraphonic records with existing stereo systems. In the wake of Castor’s acrimonious departure from RCA in late 1973, the label took Dimension III out of print and it has remained that way – until now. This new SACD edition presents the original quadraphonic mix in all its glory, along with a stereo fold-down of the quad mix – more than forty years later the universal compatibility of the QuadraDisc fulfilled in a way its inventors could never have imagined.

Another album making its high-resolution debut in both quadraphonic and stereo is Carlos Santana and Alice Coltrane’s 1974 genre-bending collaboration, Illuminations. Equal parts rock, free jazz and jazz fusion, the album was part of the culmination of Santana’s most prolific period, one that between solo and group activity saw him release seven albums in less than three years. When the hit-making original Santana band, beset by escalating internal strife, imploded in late 1971 following a disastrous South American tour, it could have easily spelled the end of Carlos Santana’s recording career. Instead, it had the opposite effect. Santana’s quest to challenge himself both musically and spiritually in the wake of this turmoil would fuel a prodigious output that included 1972’s Caravanserai, 1973’s Welcome and 1974’s Borboletta with the Santana band, and solo collaborations with Buddy Miles (1972’s Live!) and Mahavishnu John McLaughlin (1973’s Love Devotion Surrender) along with the release of a sprawling triple-LP live album (1974’s Lotus) in Japan.

Released just a month before Borboletta in September 1974, Illuminations stands as a unique entry in Carlos Santana’s nearly fifty-year recording career. Brought together by a shared interest in Eastern philosophy, along with Santana’s love for John Coltrane (it was the two Coltrane covers on Love Devotion Surrender that had caught Alice Coltrane’s initial attention), the album is a departure from everything Santana had done previously. As Santana said in his 2014 autobiography The Universal Tone, “the music really took me farther away from that classic Santana sound than almost any other recording – farther away but closer to where my heart was.” Although it’s co-billed to Santana and Coltrane, the album is a collaborative one in the truest sense, with saxophonist Jules Broussard and keyboardist Tom Coster afforded equal space for solo exploration alongside Santana and Coltrane – no single musician dominates proceedings. Mention must also be made of the rhythm section, which includes Miles Davis/Bitches Brew alumni Jack DeJohnette on drums and Dave Holland on bass, and Alice Coltrane’s sweeping string arrangements – the grand vista in front of which the instrumental excursions take place.
Not only was Carlos Santana one of Columbia’s most popular artists, but between solo and group endeavours he was also their most prolific single producer of quadraphonic product, with all twelve of his efforts between 1969 and 1977 seeing a quad release. The Santana albums are regarded by many quad enthusiasts as the gold standard for the format, and Illuminations – the first of these historic studio albums to be released in high-resolution – is no exception.

Last, but far from least, is jazz fusion trailblazer Return to Forever’s studio swansong, Musicmagic. Recorded after the breakup of the group’s longest lasting and most commercially successful lineup, the album finds founding members Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke supported by keyboardist-vocalist Gayle Moran, drummer Gerry Brown and a four-piece horn section headed by CTI sax man (and returning RTF charter member) Joe Farrell. The departure from Return to Forever of guitarist Al Di Meola and drummer Lenny White – who’d appeared on 1974’s Where Have I Known You Before, 1975’s Grammy-winning No Mystery and 1976’s platinum-selling Romantic Warrior – has divided fans for forty years. But Musicmagic offers a fascinating insight into Chick Corea’s unquenchable thirst to satisfy his creative muse at almost any cost. Gayle Moran’s lilting vocals on Musicmagic have also proved equally divisive, and while they aren’t the first on a Return to Forever record (Flora Purim was the featured vocalist on their initial two albums in 1972) they certainly add a new wrinkle to the band’s sound. At first blush, Musicmagic may seem like the classic “sell-out” album, where a band adds a vocalist in the hope of mainstream fame, but Moran’s voice is employed more as a textural or arrangement tool. Often, it bookends or divides the long instrumental workouts for which Return to Forever is famous, rather than becoming the focal point of the album. While Musicmagic may have a slightly more urbane, refined feel than the fireworks unleashed by the band’s previous lineup, it’s no less fascinating or challenging. Corea’s and Clarke’s gifts for harmony and melody are placed centre stage, and the music is often so highly arranged and rhythmically intricate that at times it approaches the progressive rock territory of bands like Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Yes.

Released in April 1977, Musicmagic holds the somewhat ignominious distinction of being the last quadraphonic popular music release ever by Columbia Records. Somewhat paradoxically though, it’s also one of the best – the product of nearly ten years’ experience by one of the market leaders in the format. Because it was released so late in the day, the quad version of Musicmagic enjoyed the briefest print run of any Columbia release, becoming a highly sought-after item in the years since. Vocalion’s new SACD aims to rectify this superb album’s status as a rarity, making the quad mix available for the first time since 1979, alongside its stereo counterpart in high resolution.
All the albums in this release feature new and extensive liner notes, and have been expertly remastered by Michael J. Dutton from the original master tapes to maintain their original tonality and dynamic range.
Vocalion Hybrid SACDs play in three ways – high-resolution multichannel (quadraphonic), high-resolution stereo and standard 44.1kHz/16bit CD stereo. The SACD layer (which contains both multichannel and stereo programmes) is playable on any SACD-capable device, while the CD layer provides stereo playback on any standard CD player.

David Zimmerman

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Vocalion SACD New Releases – June 2017

During the 1970s, several British and European artists signed to Philips found their music enjoying a second life in 4-channel quadraphonic sound as part of the company’s Japanese 4DX series. For the June 2017 release, Vocalion has sourced six superb albums from the 4DX archive and repackaged them across three individual SACDs.

First up is a pair of albums by British session trumpeter, arranger and composer Ray Davies, in which he leads his group The Button Down Brass. As one of London’s first-call session players, Ray has appeared on thousands of recordings, among them numerous pop hits including Downtown (Petula Clark), It’s Not Unusual (Tom Jones), The Last Waltz (Engelbert Humperdinck) and Big Spender (Shirley Bassey). “It would be easier to name the pop records I wasn’t on,” he says.

Comprised of Ray’s fellow session musicians, The Button Down Brass had its genesis in a session he did for Reader’s Digest during the mid-60s. “They wanted something like Herb Alpert, two trumpets and a trombone, small group sound. It was for these records they sent out in America – record clubs – and they sold hundreds of thousands of the things. They didn’t know what to call it, and the guy from Reader’s Digest came up with Button Down Brass. Everybody said it sounded nice, a bit unusual – Ray Davies and The Button Down Brass. Other people used different names for brass, and they never took off. But Button Down Brass stuck.” The Button Down Brass soon became recording artists themselves, releasing a series of easy listening albums on the Fontana label. By the early ’70s, the group had switched to Pye, under the aegis of staff producer Tony Palmer. But when Palmer went freelance, he took The Button Down Brass with him, signing them to Philips.

The albums made as part of that deal (and the subject of Vocalion’s reissue) – 1974’s Themes from The Exorcist, The French Connection, The Sting and other great films and 1975’s Flashpoint – both feature hard-hitting film and TV music from the pens of Lalo Schifrin, Patrick Williams, Quincy Jones, Joseph Koo, Elmer Bernstein and others. In Ray Davies’ exciting arrangements, classic themes like Bullitt, Enter the Dragon, Kojak and Magnum Force come up afresh, with plenty of solo space for session stalwarts Alan Hawkshaw (keyboards), Alan Parker (guitars) and Alf Bigden (drums). And the quadraphonic element makes all the difference; for example, Alan Hawkshaw’s outlandish Moog effects in Enter the Dragon sit in the back speakers while the brass section screams away in the front ones.This reissue marks both albums’ debut in SACD or indeed any digital format, and contains the original stereo and quadraphonic mixes.

Vocalion favourite Paul Mauriat makes a welcome return with a further two albums, Penelope (1972) and Holidays (1973), which presented quadraphonic remixes of 24 titles culled from his back catalogue. Originally produced for the Japanese 4DX series, this reissue makes them widely available for the first time.

Completing the June 2017 release is the Swingle Singers 1972 album The Four Seasons, an utterly charming close-harmony vocal interpretation of pieces by Vivaldi, Pachelbel, Bach, Marcello and Mozart. These arrangements by group founder Ward Swingle, with their characteristically light and jazzy touch, open out beautifully in the quadraphonic mixes, the voices’ ethereal quality enveloping the listener.

Everything has been remastered from the original stereo and quadraphonic tapes, and these SACDs additionally include high resolution stereo versions of each album.

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Dutton Epoch – May 2017


Lewis Foreman reports on Dutton Epoch revivals and musical explorations
Session photographs by the author

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Scott of the Antarctic – the complete score

Arriving in Dundee, on 31 August 2016, for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s recording of Vaughan Williams’s complete score for the film Scott of the Antarctic, one was immediately struck by the sight of Scott’s Antarctic research ship Discovery moored alongside the new museum in its name, almost opposite the station. Discovery was Terra Nova’s predecessor, the vessel of Scott’s expedition of 1901-4.

It is a revelation to hear, in sequence, every note that Vaughan Williams wrote late in 1947 for the then unmade Ealing Studios’ film of Scott of the Antarctic. There have been previous attempts to revisit some of the unheard music Vaughan Williams sketched for the film, but now conductor Martin Yates, with the support of the composer’s Estate, has transcribed from the original manuscripts all the music, which comprises some 41 beautifully rounded numbers. In providing this door to all the music Vaughan Williams conceived for the story of Scott and his companions, Yates has achieved something truly remarkable.

Vaughan Williams subsequently reworked some of this material in the Sinfonia Antartica, but to hear his first vivid reaction to the story – before the film was shot – is extraordinary, not least for the speed of its composition (he wrote an hour and twenty minutes of music in the space of just two or three weeks). This epic musical canvas stands independently beside the Sinfonia Antartica as a gripping symphonic experience in its own right.

It is worth reminding ourselves that British film music came of age during and immediately after the Second World War. The groundwork for Vaughan Williams’s achievement had been prepared by considerable activity in the 1930s, and we might, in retrospect, mark out the work of the GPO Film Unit (one of whose luminaries was the young Benjamin Britten) as well as the appearance of a number of notable films.

Possibly the most celebrated British film music before the war was Arthur Bliss’s Things to Come. Although piano arrangements of several numbers from Bliss’s score appeared as sheet music, public interest was only fully engaged by Walton’s Shakespearian scores, the many wartime documentaries with music by all the leading British composers, and such popular 1940s films as Oliver Twist (Arnold Bax), Dangerous Moonlight (Richard Addinsell), The Winslow Boy (William Alwyn), Anna Karenina (Constant Lambert) and Christopher Columbus (Arthur Bliss). British film music’s standing was reinforced by the Daily Mail British Film Festival at the Leicester Square Theatre in 1946, a well-publicised British Film Festival Concert in Prague, Louis Levy’s film music concerts and the BBC’s repeated programming of extracts from various scores.


Ernest Irving (on the podium) and Vaughan Williams at the original Scott of the Antarctic recording session

Vaughan Williams was therefore writing for a receptive public, and had started scoring films during the war. He approached Muir Mathieson in 1940, and quickly wrote the music for 49th Parallel, Coastal Command, The People’s Land and The Story of a Flemish Farm. In 1947, Ernest Irving, Music Director of Ealing Studios, asked Vaughan Williams to score the film Scott of the Antarctic. “I believe,” wrote Vaughan Williams, “that film music is capable of becoming, and to a certain extent already is, a fine art … perhaps one day a great film will be built up on the basis of music.” As already mentioned, the writing of his Scott film music was accomplished quickly. By the end of 1947, he had produced a substantial number of separate movements, some in full score – in fact, Vaughan Williams presented the music as a sequence of coherent musical miniatures. And this is all the more remarkable given the extent of the score, which had been written without having seen anything on screen; he worked only from Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s book The Worst Journey in the World, with its haunting photographs, and which in effect served as a draft script.

Vaughan Williams obtained the director’s enthusiastic backing for his approach, which was not to illustrate individual moments in close detail. He was clearly fired by the project; armed with a copy of the script, he went home and set to work. From the dating in Vaughan Williams’s letters, we find that by the time Irving was ready to send him a timed list of the cues requiring music, the score illustrating the composer’s own selection of episodes in the story had already been posted. Irving wrote to Vaughan Williams on 9 January 1948 thanking him for the scores, which he said he “devoured with avidity.” He announced that he would like to record the music at Denham Studios on 6 February, and noting that it included a vocalising soprano, asked the composer to name his preferred soloist – it would be Mabel (later better known as Margaret) Ritchie. In this new recording, Ilona Domnich perfectly catches the required vocal nuance.

Vaughan Williams’s first response to the project came before any of the film was shot. The fact that Irving recorded most of the music immediately means that he had already experienced it live and had it in his head. It also meant that Irving and his staff were able to use a patchwork of extracts of Vaughan Williams’s music as needed. The film music historian John Huntley noted that the composer didn’t seem at all phased when Irving and the production team started to cut the music to the film and found that it fitted.

In a letter to Vaughan Williams, Irving wrote, “Regarding the timings, I am afraid no amount of bullying on my part will produce measurements of film that has not yet been shot.” In fact, the strategy of recording the music so early worked in Vaughan Williams’s favour, as stock colour footage of the panoramic views of the Antarctic was used, and, in some instances it would seem, additional footage was available to accommodate the span of the music. This may possibly be the case in Snow Plain, which runs almost five minutes. Thus, it was possible to argue for the reinstatement of stock colour footage of Antarctica that had already been edited out, which in turn allowed some of the composer’s big set pieces to be used complete. Indeed, it could be argued that the music made the colour footage possible in the cinema.

Typical of the previously unheard discoveries is the lovely pastoral miniature for Oriana, Wilson’s wife. Atmospheric and delicate use of the strings is also notable in the two connected numbers for Scott’s wife Kathleen, as she models a sculpture of her husband’s head (still to be seen at London’s Waterloo Place, below lower Regent Street). Little of her music survived onto the soundtrack, however, and even then is so softly heard as to lose any impact. As a standalone piece, it comes into its own.

In his Scott film music, Vaughan Williams employed an innovative sound palette, especially in the use of percussion including tam-tam, tubular bells, glockenspiel and xylophone. The orchestral piano is also used as part of the tuned percussion, while in the original score recorded here he asked for wind machine, which in the film was replaced by real wind sounds. It was restored when the music was reworked for the Sinfonia Antartica.

In addition to vocalising soprano solo, Vaughan Williams’s score called for women’s choir. Irving was initially worried that the soprano voice might conflict with the dialogue, though in the event the disembodied, ethereal effect caused no problem. We first hear the voices in the second movement, Antarctic Prologue, which in the film appears as a brief atmospheric prologue before the beginning of the story in England is told. Voices later appear in Kathleen 1 (the sculpture scene), Scott and Oates in the Rain, The Death of Oates, and the female choir without solo in the Blizzard. Other features typical of Vaughan Williams’s use of the orchestra include the organ, which adds a pagan power to Aurora 1, the music when they are on the glacier (Climbing the Glacier, Scott on the Glacier and Descending the Glacier) and the final bleak scenes of The Discovery of the Tent and the Bodies and the End Music. Characteristic Vaughan Williams wind solos include the cor anglais in Snow Plain and the rumbustious euphonium in Base Camp.

When Martin Yates and the RSNO recorded the vocal music, the placing in the hall was very effective for those present, the orchestra on the platform and, facing down the hall towards them, the wind machine. Between them was soprano Ilona Domnich and, to her right in the gallery, the women’s choir. It was fascinating to hear live in the hall and is vividly caught in Dutton Epoch’s recorded sound.

Less than half the music that Vaughan Williams wrote was used in the film. The music has become familiar through its later use in the Sinfonia Antartica, the development of which took three years, from 1949 to 1952, and was first heard in Manchester on 14 January 1953.

The scene on Scott’s ship Terra Nova at Cardiff docks (actually filmed at Falmouth) features one atypical number – possibly not by Vaughan Williams – the Queen’s Birthday March, in popular Edwardian style, though there is no credit to another hand. The Terra Nova’s departure features Kathleen and a tearful Oriana standing in the crowd on the quayside, to the strains of Vaughan Williams’s brass harmonisation of Will Ye No Come Back Again, which includes a telling four-bar coda separated from the tune, but unheard in the film. After the ship has sailed, Scott opens a telegram that had arrived as they left, and reads Amundsen’s announcement that he is going south. Vaughan Williams provides a ten-bar cue, unused in the film.

The great strength of Vaughan Williams’s score is in its underpinning of the grandeur and immensity of nature and the ice, together with contrasted episodes featuring the penguins, the ponies and natural phenomena such as the aurora and aphelion (the return of the sun, when the earth is farthest from the sun and the sun smallest in the sky). This, the main musical sequence, with its heroic washes of arpeggiated woodwind and fortissimo brass fanfares leading to the strings’ affirmative melody, is launched by Terra Nova’s departure from Ross Island.

When Vaughan Williams’s complete score is heard in the sequence of the story, it becomes apparent that he had provided the film with a remarkable extra dimension, rather as William Walton had been instrumental in creating much of the impact of Olivier’s Henry V, five years before. But more than that, we now have a vast quasi-symphonic canvas on an almost Wagnerian scale, and in its own way is as satisfying an achievement as the Sinfonia Antartica, which it spawned three years later.

William Walton and Arthur Bliss: Violin Concertos

Dutton Epoch has recorded the Walton and Bliss Violin Concertos with violinist Lorraine McAslan, but using the original orchestration of the Walton, unheard since 1940. The idea of recording the original version of the Walton Concerto originated after comparing the two orchestrations of the Walton Viola Concerto, where the original still has its adherents. When considering the Violin Concerto, one was faced with trying to appreciate the very different orchestration of the first version in the now rather dim sound of its only (78-rpm) recording – in which the commissioning dedicatee, Jascha Heifetz, was the soloist. After the earliest performances, Walton rescored it but without altering the solo part.

So when the proposal to record the first version in modern sound was being discussed, the present writer approached Oxford University Press, was sympathetically received, and visited Oxford to view the score and the original parts. In doing so, it became clear that while the original solo violin part – as published in 1939 – had not changed, Walton had made dramatic changes to the orchestration, reinforcing the romantic nature of the work in the version by which we know it today. Permission was given to record the first version and we are delighted that it is now appearing.

The sessions took place at Watford Colosseum. Presented in the clarity of a Dutton Epoch recording, we can now fully appreciate Walton’s first thoughts, which perhaps are more a reflection of a pre-Second World War musical world. In some places, the orchestration is completely different, while in others the percussion – murky in the original wartime recording – changes; we might feel the loss of the castanets and glockenspiel in the second movement, and gong and bass drum in the third, to be regrettable. Roy Douglas, who prepared many of Walton’s scores for publication, certainly felt that he had gone too far in removing much of the percussion. Now listeners can make their own assessment, with the eloquent violin of Lorraine McAslan and the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Martin Yates to guide them.

The Walton and the Bliss Violin Concertos make a compelling programme, and the Bliss Concerto of 1954/55 remains perhaps one of the most impressive British violin concertos not in the day-to-day repertoire. Lorraine McAslan not only underlines its lyrical qualities but also she plays every note – reinstating the minor cuts that are sometimes made.

Hubert Clifford: The Cowes Suite and other works

Australian-born composer Hubert Clifford started his musical career in Melbourne, but came to England in 1930 and remained there for the rest of his career. He started by teaching music in a boys’ grammar school, moved to the BBC as wartime Empire Director of Music and composed much library music for media use, which is still heard today. He became Alexander Korda’s Music Director at London Films. Among other coups, he commissioned zither player Anton Karas for Carol Reed’s film The Third Man, and whose Harry Lime theme went round the world. Clifford later became the BBC’s Head of Light Music.

Although many of Clifford’s later scores have been recorded, a good number of the earlier ones remain unknown, many of which were written in Australia where, in the 1920s, he was a pupil of Fritz Hart. These and his film music have remained in the composer’s original manuscript. We thus started this project with a pile of fading manuscript scores, several bearing the original Melbourne first performance programmes. In association with the composer’s daughter, the present writer contacted an informal team of copyists and arrangers – Graham Parlett, David Bednall and conductor Ronald Corp ‒ who have originated performing materials thanks to the modern miracle of Sibelius software. Also included is what may be Clifford’s last work, The Cowes Suite, commissioned by the BBC and played from printed copies provided by the BBC Music Library.

Clifford was a musician of many parts and this wide-ranging exploration of his art, covering a 30-year span, allows us to hear his tuneful early orchestral works written in Melbourne, including Dargo: A Mountain Rhapsody, a glorious Moeranesque evocation of his childhood home. Two of his film scores, Left of the Line (1944) and Hunted (1952), also receive first recordings. Commissioned by the Canadian Army Film Unit, Left of the Line was written for a documentary about the Canadian forces at D-Day. Ronald Corp has edited the manuscript into a continuous narrative, the music underscoring a succession of comparatively brief episodes on the screen.

Clifford’s music for Hunted, Dirk Bogarde’s first high profile feature, takes us to the black and white world of the early 1950s, in an energetic and emotionally inflected score, the tone set by the arresting title music. In the film, the music consists of discrete numbers often separated by long passages without music. Graham Parlett has edited Clifford’s score into a vivid concert suite.

The Cowes Suite, Clifford’s light-hearted commission for the BBC’s 1958 Light Music Festival, celebrates famous yachtsman Uffa Fox, and provides colourful contrast, completing a tuneful and unfamiliar programme. The BBC Concert Orchestra, originally intended for The Cowes Suite’s first performance, have light music in their veins and throw off Clifford’s music, under the spirited direction of Ronald Corp, in their usual polished style.

Cécile Chaminade: Callirhoë: Ballet Symphonique & Concertstück for piano and orchestra

Conductor Martin Yates pointed out the remarkable qualities of the comparatively few large-scale orchestral works by French composer Cécile Chaminade, best known for her piano miniatures, some of them not quite as easy as many drawing room pianists might have wished. The search for a coupling for Chaminade’s Concertstück Op. 40 for piano and orchestra, and wondering about the four-movement ballet suite from Callirhoë, led to Martin’s discovery of her “ballet symphonique” Callirhoë Op. 37, running nearly fifty minutes. Discovering that both works were premiered in the early spring of 1888, they seemed an obvious coupling.

The complete Callirhoë is a world premiere recording. In fact, it is the first hearing of the complete ballet for very many years – can it really be over a century? – and what a delightful and varied discovery it proves to be; surely a score that needs only to be heard to find producers wanting to see it danced again.

As mentioned, Chaminade has been remembered for her piano miniatures, but pianist Victor Sangiorgio’s brilliant performance in the Concertstück reminds us of what a romantic and affecting composer Chaminade could be when given an extended musical canvas. Sangiorgio’s exhilarating fluency reinforces the image of a French romantic composer at the very peak of her art.

Maximilian Steinberg: Symphony No. 4 Turksib & Violin Concerto

On 21 and 22 June 2016, the Dutton Epoch team were in Glasgow, their first time with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in the new RSNO Centre at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. The RSNO have vacated their long-familiar home, Henry Wood Hall, in the former Trinity Church, where over the years Dutton Epoch has recorded more than 40 CD programmes. It was with the music of Maximillian Steinberg that the bright new hall greeted the Dutton Epoch team.

Steinberg was a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov – also his son-in-law – in pre-Revolutionary Russia, exhibiting all the orchestral and lyrical characteristics that one might expect from such a heritage. (Steinberg himself would later be a teacher of Shostakovich.) The composer of five symphonies, Steinberg wrote just one instrumental concerto, the unpublished Violin Concerto; his last work, it was completed in 1946, the year of his death.

In the concerto, violinist Sergey Levitin gives a spellbinding performance, seemingly oblivious of the music’s many technical demands. Indeed, Levitin encompasses the virtuosic writing with complete authority while finding its passionate and romantic manner. The concerto’s first movement, unlike the symphony, to quote Guy Rickards’ booklet notes, “is valedictory and autumnal (especially in the central span).” But the music ends with an irrepressible scherzando rounded off, like the symphony, in a sunlit C major. This is a major yet forgotten score by a significant composer of his time.

The Turksib Symphony – Steinberg’s fourth – completed in 1933, celebrates the building of the Turkestan-Siberia Railway.

Using Kazakh folk melodies and in four richly scored movements, it is quite different to the Violin Concerto. This, the acceptable face of Socialist Realism, is a gripping and outgoing score that invites repeated listens. Martin Yates delivers it all with punch and vigour, and the RSNO respond with great panache.

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Dutton Epoch Quadraphonic SACD Releases – January 2017


January 2017 sees an exciting addition to our range of SACD titles. On this occasion we have delved into the archives of CBS and RCA for five new reissues on the Dutton Epoch label, each featuring some of classical music’s most eminent artists. Recorded in the early and mid-1970s, these albums were issued originally in discrete four-channel (quadraphonic) sound. And like the SACD-quadraphonic reissues on Epoch sister-label Vocalion, these SACD reissues include both the quadraphonic and stereo recordings in high-resolution transfers alongside the stereo recording in regular 16-bit, 44.1-khz CD sound, making them fully compatible with standard CD players and SACD-specific players. Michael J. Dutton has transferred the music exquisitely from the stereo and quadraphonic analogue masters, which has ensured that full justice is done to the superb quality of the original recordings.


Guitar virtuoso Julian Bream turns to the lute for a programme of baroque music (some of it in his own orchestral transcriptions), including concertos by Vivaldi and Handel as well as the lesser-known Karl Kohaut (1726-84). The product of a family of Bohemian musicians, Kohaut was considered the finest lutenist of the day and spent much of his career in Vienna where he wrote a number of symphonies and lute works. An added extra takes the form of Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, in which Bream returns to the guitar for a sumptuous reading of this timeless work. These recordings, with sympathetic backing from the Monteverdi Orchestra under John Eliot Gardner’s direction, were made for RCA in 1974 and ’75 by Bob Auger – an early advocate of quadraphonic sound in the classical field – at London venues Rosslyn Hill Chapel and the Barking and Walthamstow town halls.


The baroque theme is revisited in two CBS albums by Israeli-born violinist Pinchas Zukerman. Recorded at the Abbey Road Studios by Robert Gooch, Roy Emerson and Mike Ross-Trevor, both are devoted to Vivaldi’s concertos. Drawn from the great master’s Opus No. 8, Concertos Nos. 1-4, better known as The Four Seasons, constitute the first album, while the second includes Concertos No. 5-8, the first two bearing the titles La tempesta di mare and Il piacere respectively. Zukerman is not only the soloist – he also conducts the English Chamber Orchestra, with harpsichordist Philip Ledger providing the continuo part.


English-born organist Edward “E” Power Biggs immigrated to the US in the early ’30s where he recorded prolifically, in the process sparking a revival of interest in organ music and its composers. Among his latter recordings is a 1973 CBS album of two concertos by Liechtensteinian composer, organist and pedagogue Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901): the F Major Concerto of 1884 and the G Minor Concerto of 1894. “His contribution to organ literature was without parallel,” Biggs observed in his liner notes. “For, in the flowering of the romantic in music, it was Rheinberger who gave renewed life to the organ concerto – a form that, in the 18th century, had enjoyed a vigorous birth through the genius of Handel, Haydn and Mozart, but that had not suited the composition techniques of 19th-century composers such as Beethoven, Schubert and Schumann.” In addition to these immaculate performances, with Biggs accompanied by The Columbia Symphony conducted by Maurice Peress, the Epoch reissue includes another fascinating artefact – a rare quadraphonic EP in which Biggs provides commentary on the history of the organ concerto aided by examples of Rheinberger’s music.


Artur Rubinstein and The Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy feature in a pair of RCA albums from the early ’70s. First up is Rachmaninov’s immortal Second Piano Concerto, recorded here in the wonderful acoustic of Philadelphia’s Scottish Rite Cathedral. In his memoirs the composer recounted the circumstances behind the Second Concerto’s creation: in 1900, up against a compositional block, he went to a Dr. Nikolai Dahl, a psychiatrist specialising in autosuggestion, and was virtually hypnotised into overcoming his hang-up, and then created in almost a single burst of energy both this concerto and the second two-piano suite. Rubinstein’s and Ormandy’s interpretative genius combine in this moving version of one of Rachmaninov’s best-loved works. The second album, which, remarkably, was recorded in just two three-hour sessions at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music, is concerned with the music of Manuel de Falla and Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns. De Falla is represented with the three-movement Nights in the Gardens of Spain (Noches en los Jardines de España), a brooding evocation of Andalusia by night that has been described as “the apotheosis of Andalusian music.” The Second Piano Concerto of Saint-Saëns, who is best known for his suite The Carnival of the Animals, was composed in 1868 to a commission from conductor-pianist Anton Rubinstein – and here it is given illustrious treatment by the Rubinstein-Ormandy team.

In addition to being one of the 20th century’s great conductors, Leopold Stokowski (1882-1977) devoted much energy to transcribing works of Johann Sebastian Bach, tailoring them to suit the very special qualities of the great Philadelphia Orchestra with which his name was synonymous. A sequence of albums for RCA in the 1970s marked Stokowski’s last recordings, and material from that period comprises the final title in this batch of Dutton Epoch SACD reissues.

1975’s Stokowski conducts Bach – The Great Transcriptions, recorded by Bob Auger at St. Giles’ Church, Cripplegate, London, includes, among others, orchestral versions of Chaconne (from Partita No. 2 in D minor for solo violin), Preludio (from Partita No. 3 in E major for solo violin) and Aria (Air on the G-String) (from Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major). Of the album’s final piece, Komm, süsser Tod, Stokwoski said, “This poignant and soul-searching melody was composed by Bach about 1736. It is one of the melodies published by Schemelli in his book of sacred songs, Musicalisches Gesangbuch. Bach edited the songbook, providing several of his own compositions and adding figured bass to other melodies. In giving this sublime melody orchestral expression, I have tried to imagine what Bach would do had he the rich resources of the orchestra of today at his disposal.” This release is completed by Stokowski’s arrangement of Brünnhilde’s Immolation, part of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, the last of the cycle of four operas making up Der Ring des Nibelungen. Using RCA’s multi-track analogue masters from the 1974 sessions at Abbey Road Studios, Michael J. Dutton has created a superb new quadraphonic mix, and one that is a considerable improvement over the 1990s Dolby surround sound CD reissue.

Two additional SACD reissues on the Vocalion label tie-in nicely with the Epoch titles, namely a disc of symphonic works by Hungarian composer Miklós Rózsa, and a disc of music by Villa-Lobos coupled with music by Spanish composers, played by the Andre Kostelanetz Orchestra. Recorded in Rome, the Rózsa conducts Rózsa album was issued by RCA in 1965 on a stereo LP; for this reissue Michael J. Dutton has remixed it in surround sound from the original multi-track tapes. The two Kostelanetz albums, Plays Music of Villa-Lobos and Conducts Music from Spain, both from 1974, were to all intents and purposes demonstration discs, designed to show off quadraphonic sound. The first includes a suite from the operetta Magdalena, adapted by Robert R. Wright and George Forrest from Villa-Lobos’s original score, and the programme is filled out with such well-loved pieces as Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5, The Little Train of the Caipira and Prelude – Introduction (No. 1 from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4) in which Kostelanetz is the piano soloist. The second album features such staples of the Spanish repertoire as Jota (Final Dance) from De Falla’s The Three-Cornered Hat, Albéniz’s Triana from Iberia and Granados’s The Lady and the Nightingale from Goyescas – and several items feature American soprano Maralin Niska.

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“Quadraphonic sound”

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“Quadraphonic sound”

It’s one of those phrases that evokes images of some of the groovy excesses of the 70s, along with pet rocks, deep pile carpeted everything, and bell bottom jeans. The prevailing wisdom in the decades since quad’s commercial demise in the second half of the decade has been that it was a blip on the musical radar, a gimmick that rightly never caught on. The truth of the matter is not only more complex than that; it’s also more intriguing as well.

The move from mono to stereo records in the late 1950’s ushered in an unparalleled decade of growth for the music industry, and so ubiquitous was the acceptance of the new format that within a few years of its introduction the de facto name of the device you played your records on went from being “the hi-fi” to “the stereo”. It was with that success in mind that nearly a decade later the recording industry was hoping to capture that same lightning in a bottle again, by introducing 4-channel discrete “quadraphonic” sound for the consumer. While the decision to put two more speakers behind the listener may have its roots in somewhat cynical financial motives (it is the music business, after all), what producers, engineers and musicians who embraced the format quickly realised was that a four speaker setup opened up a world of new sonic possibilities. This didn’t just mean putting sounds directly behind the listener; rather that because the four speakers actually formed four stereo sound fields (front, back, left and right sides) it was now possible to place sounds anywhere in 360 degree radius around the listener. You could have a horn section beside you, or backing vocalists or a choir behind you, sit on the drummer’s throne surrounded by drums, or feel like you’re in the studio with a rock band, guitars howling behind you as the rhythm section pounds in front. This 360° sound field also for the first time afforded the possibility of putting listeners in to acoustic spaces; whether it was experiencing sound reverberating off the cavernous walls behind you in of the historic cathedrals of Europe during an organ recital, or slapback echo from a rock band hitting the walls in Columbia’s Studio B in New York, for the first time the listener could be in the performance rather than a passive observer from afar.

There had been sporadic releases of quadraphonic recordings by smaller labels as early as 1969, but the quadraphonic era was really inaugurated when RCA Records released more than 50 albums from their back catalog on quadraphonic 8-track tape in December 1970, including releases from The Guess Who, The Friends Of Distinction, Henry Mancini, Jose Feliciano, Arthur Fiedler and The Boston Pops, Eugene Ormandy and many others. The next major player to enter the quad marketplace was CBS, when in January 1972 their Columbia and Epic labels released several dozen back catalog titles remixed for quad, including albums from Janis Joplin, Santana, Johnny Cash, Johnny Mathis, Sly & The Family Stone, Ray Conniff, Percy Faith, Leonard Bernstein and others. Both CBS and RCA continued to release quad product throughout 1972, joined by a growing chorus of other labels including ABC/Dunhill, A&M, Atlantic, EMI, Decca, London, and Vanguard. By the time Elektra, Warner Bros., CTI/Kudu, and UA had released quad product in 1973 however, it was becoming clear that the industry was becoming locked in to an intractable format war when it came to LPs, the dominant delivery format of the time. The recording industry believed strongly that one of the main reasons for the success of stereo records in the 60s was that they were backwards-compatible with mono turntables, and so 10 years later they mandated the same compatibility for quadraphonic records: they had to play back in quad, stereo or mono without any detrimental effect to the sound. Making stereo records that were mono-compatible had been a relatively easy task, but fitting 4 channels where there had previously been 2 (and before that, 1) was infinitely more difficult, and there were competing philosophies on how to accomplish this task. On one side there were so-called “matrix” formats (SQ, QS, DY, and EV-4), which used a fancy version of phase shifting to mix 4 channels in to two, and then un-mix them using a decoder on playback. On the other side was the “discrete” format, CD-4, which used a modulation technique similar to the one used to bring stereo sound to FM radio, effectively stacking the rear channels on top of the front ones, and required a special turntable needle and a demodulator to ‘un-stack’ the channels for playback. With considerable sums of money on the line in both hardware and software sales, by 1973 the industry was in a Mexican standoff: Columbia, Epic, Stax, CTI, Vanguard and others released records in the SQ matrix format, ABC/Dunhill, Pye, Project 3, and Ovation released records in QS matrix, and RCA, Warner Bros, Elektra and Atlantic released their records in the CD-4 discrete format.

If this all seems confusing, it’s because it is. Even more detrimentally, it made playback of an extensive quad collection almost prohibitively expensive because none of the various formats were compatible with each other, and each one required its own decoder. If you wanted to listen to Santana, Chicago, Aerosmith, or Pink Floyd in quad you had to buy an SQ decoder, while Steely Dan, B.B. King, Joe Walsh or Keith Jarrett required a QS decoder, and if you wanted to listen to Frank Sinatra, The Doors, Henry Mancini, or Joni Mitchell you needed a CD-4 demodulator and an expensive Shibata tip stylus for your turntable. Buying a 4 channel amplifier and new speakers – a prerequisite for any quad system – was already a significant financial outlay and for many consumers the idea of having to buy several more pieces of outboard gear to deal with the various formats was a step too far. For those who did take the plunge, the results were often underwhelming; early matrix decoders produced very little front to back channel separation, and CD-4 demodulation was temperamental at the best of times, often giving the demodulated sound a gritty, sandpaper-like quality. Despite these drawbacks, quad saw exponential growth in both the number of albums released and sales of product in 1973 through 1975 with even more labels issuing their first quad releases, including Arista and many others.
But in an industry that was selling millions of copies of stereo albums at the time, quad’s status as a niche format was viewed as a failure. A perfect example of this is Santana’s ‘Abraxas’ album: it sold almost 175,000 copies in quad by 1975 (the kind of sales numbers that would have given most bands hit record status) but compared to the over 2 million copies the stereo version had sold by that point, it almost paled in to insignificance. The number of quad releases fell off a cliff in 1976, and by 1978 the industry’s grand experiment with releasing surround sound music was over, at least for a couple of decades anyway.

Ask any fan of quadraphonic sound about its decline and you’ll almost always get a series of wistful “what ifs” in response. “What if the technology was better?”, “what if the format had lasted long enough to make it on to cassette or CD?”, “what if the industry had been able to agree on a single standard? “ The reason for this isn’t mass nostalgia, as a large percentage of the people who collect quadraphonic music these days aren’t even old enough to remember the format in its first go-round. The truth is there’s a magic in these recordings, a sense of three-dimensional engagement that’s still evident even on a crackly LP played through a 40 year old decoder, or a wobbly 8-track tape that truth be told didn’t even sound that great when it first came out of the shrink-wrap. That magic is no accident either as these quadraphonic mixes were produced by many of the top producers and engineers of the 70s, and most of the leading recording studios in the United States and Europe were equipped for quadraphonic mixing. The industry may have stumbled at the final hurdle in the 70s by failing to find a viable consumer format for quadraphonic sound reproduction, but just as with the stereo versions of these albums, they took the utmost in care in creating the quadraphonic mixes. As a result we’re left with a legacy of literally thousands of surround sound mixes, an absolute treasure trove representing every genre of popular and classical music from one of the golden ages of recorded sound.

A lot has changed since the heyday of quadraphonic sound, but as the old adage goes “everything old is new again” and in the late 1990s surround sound in the home had its second coming thanks to home cinema systems and blockbuster movies. This also gave another life to surround sound music, which has seen release across a variety of digital formats over the last 15 years. Amongst these, there’s one that would have blown the minds of the label executives and engineers who were looking for the perfect backwards-compatible surround sound disc in 1970. It’s called Super Audio CD (or SACD) and it’s truly a marvel of modern engineering. SACDs are, in technical terms, a dual layer hybrid disc. What this means in practical terms is that the disc is actually two discs glued together, both facing the same way; the bottom one is a plain old stereo CD, and on top of it is a high-resolution SACD, which can contain both stereo and surround sound versions of the album. What this means is that these discs will play in almost any device: if you put one in a CD player, it will play as a stereo CD, but if you put it in an SACD-capable player it will know to look for the SACD portion and play it back instead, either in high resolution stereo, or surround. There’s no denying CDs sound good, but the high resolution sound produced by SACD is like the equivalent of HD video for your ears, and almost indistinguishable from the original master tapes. SACD has been embraced by several labels, including Vocalion, who care not only about the music they’re releasing but how good it sounds. When you buy an SACD disc, not only do you get the ultimate bargain in a disc that actually contains three versions of the album you’re purchasing (CD stereo, SACD stereo, and SACD surround) you’re also making a vote with your wallet that both sound quality and music in surround matter.

If you have a home cinema system, the good news is that you may already be equipped for SACD playback, with no decoders, demodulators or other fancy hardware gizmos needed. Sony (one of the co-creators of the SACD format) has included SACD playback in almost all of their Blu-Ray players to date, including their latest flagship model, the UHP-H1. If the Blu-Ray or DVD player you have doesn’t support SACD playback there are a number of economical options from a variety of manufacturers including Sony (most BDP series Blu-Ray players and BDV series home theatre in a box systems), Oppo (every model from their highly regarded BDP-105 and 103 down to BDP-80), and many models from Marantz, Denon, and Pioneer, amongst others. Most players will list which disc formats they support in the specifications in the back page of their manuals, and there’s an additional wealth of information available online as well.

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys listening to music you owe it to yourself to unlock the potential that exists within SACD – once you’ve heard your favourite artists in surround sound you’ll never want to hear it any other way.

David Zimmerman
Toronto, November 2016

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Dutton Epoch – July 2016

SESSION MEMORIES & PHOTOGRAPHS BY LEWIS FOREMAN

This release took the Dutton Epoch recording team around the country to four gloriously sounding halls – from Watford to Manchester to Glasgow.
Longest in the can has been Arthur Sullivan’s theatre music for Shakespeare’s Macbeth and The Tempest, with dramatic recitation by Simon Callow and vocal numbers by sopranos Mary Bevan and Fflur Wyn accompanied by the BBC Singers. Also included is the first complete recording of the Marmion Overture (1867). A fine work from Sullivan’s early maturity, its neglect is hard to explain.
Issued as an attractively priced 2-CD set, these recordings feature the BBC Concert Orchestra at Watford Colosseum (Town Hall) and were made during sessions that took place on 3-4 February and 10-11 March 2015. They were also my first sessions with conductor John Andrews, and he knows this composer’s music intimately. I had not encountered soprano Mary Bevan before, and the way her voice soared over the orchestra was enchanting – something I think will thrill all Sullivan devotees.
Simon Callow’s sessions with the Concert Orchestra were superb too, in which he gave renditions of familiar speeches, changing from the witches to Banquo and Macbeth via a range of Scottish accents. Those of the first violins close to him were riveted by his presentation. During the tea breaks, his discussions with John Andrews on points of interpretation found them standing together against the background of a now deserted orchestra.

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When Chris Gardner approached Dutton Epoch about recording his father, John Gardner’s Second Symphony (1984-85) with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, there was much head scratching as to what should be the coupling. John Veale’s Second Symphony was my recommendation, and its acceptance satisfied a longstanding ambition to promote a work I thought would appeal to those who relished the more popular of Malcolm Arnold’s symphonies.
During the last twenty years of his life, I regularly visited Veale at his home at Woodeaton, near Oxford, and he loaned me the symphony’s autograph manuscript – but as I had never heard the work my assessment was based entirely on the score. Conductor Martin Yates announced himself keen after reading it, and the sessions, on 3 and 4 June 2015, would be among Dutton Epoch’s last at the RSNO’s old home of Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow. They were remarkably successful, both works a revelation for their character and memorable style. At one point during the Veale, all in the control suddenly shouted, “It’s becoming John Williams!” Written in 1965, the symphony predates any film score it might have reminded us of, and Veale himself was a significant movie composer.
Gardner’s Second Symphony, written more than three decades after his better-known First Symphony, is in a strongly tonal idiom, and the RSNO’s enchanting performance under Martin Yates reveals the Gardner and the Veale as an ideal pairing.

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Executive producer Mike Dutton (background) and producer Michael Ponder (foreground) in the control room during the John Veale recording

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John Veale

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John Gardner

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Martin Yates conducts the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in John Veale’s Second Symphony at Henry Wood Hall, Glasgow

Arriving at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall on 5 September 2015 for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s recording of Havergal Brian’s Second and Fourteenth symphonies was like opening the door on a magical musical world, for spread out before me were the enormous forces required for the Second Symphony, presided over by Martyn Brabbins, our good-humoured conductor. None of the Second Symphony’s previous performances had employed the huge line-up the score demands – particularly the sixteen horns – but here the detail and grandeur of Brian’s aural canvas was fully recreated.
Having been involved in the Second Symphony’s first performance (in 1973), it has always held a special interest for me. I had been able to discuss the music with Brian himself during the year prior to his death. We spoke about which symphony conductor Leslie Head should consider after the success of his premiere in 1969 of Wine of Summer, and Brian’s 95th birthday concert at St. John’s, Smith Square in 1971. Graham Hatton’s preparation of orchestral parts started and went on through much of 1972. We began writing programme notes in the summer of 1972, consulting the composer. He then produced a bombshell in the shape of an utterly new programme for the work, communicated to me in a pencilled note. It was now, “Man in His Cosmic Loneliness”!

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The first page of Brian’s pencilled note of July 1972 about the Second Symphony

The recording of the Second and Fourteenth symphonies presented a formidable undertaking (in addition to the huge orchestral line-up, both works also require an organ), the extent of the task evident from the photographs. Not least were the sixteen horns, arranged during the Second Symphony’s scherzo in two equal groups on either side of the hall, the regular line-up (of nine players) returning to their customary position for the other movements. During a break, Martyn Brabbins brought the horns together for a group photograph. Lynda Cochrane and Judith Keaney, the pianists, also stopped for a photograph with the conductor. The timpani and percussion were a special group too, stretched across the back of the orchestra where at moments of peak activity there were as many as ten musicians playing simultaneously. Particularly instructive is the view from the organ console, a vantage point from which can be seen the massed forces.
Only occasionally did questions about specific notes cause Martyn Brabbins to examine the score, which illustrates how thoroughly the project had been prepared, with the combined input of the Havergal Brian Society and John Pickard, himself a composer of international standing. To those present it was an unforgettable occasion, and what we now have is the definitive presentation of these two works.

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John Pickard takes a serious view of a query on notes

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Dutton Epoch’s first visit to the Hallé at their light and airy rehearsal hall – St. Peter’s, Manchester – on 5-7 January 2016 was a delightful occasion: we were here with soloist Sarah-Jane Bradley and conductor Stephen Bell to record English music for viola and orchestra. The first day opened with Benjamin Dale’s familiar Romance for Viola, orchestrated by the composer in 1910 and premiered by Lionel Tertis under the baton of Arthur Nikisch (whose condescension towards the work irritated Tertis considerably). Dale writes for a surprisingly large orchestra to accompany his solo viola, and the tolling opening chords, noble melody and wide-spanning cantilenas exhibit his style at its most lyrical.

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Canadian-born composer Ruth Lomon, to a commission from The Rebecca Clarke Society, has orchestrated Rebecca Clarke’s well-known Viola Sonata in authentic style. A concerto is the result, and one bearing comparison with other viola concerti of the post-WWI period.
Clarke prefaces her score with two lines from French poet Alfred de Musset’s La Nuit de Mai (1835) – preparing us for the romantic and emotionally charged atmosphere:

Poète, prends ton luth; le vin de la jeunesse
Fermente cette nuit dans les veines de Dieu.

I translated this as follows (feeling that blood “fermenting” in the poet’s veins sounded rather stilted):

Poet, take your lute; the wine of youth
Courses this night in the veins of God.

Clarke writes in her autobiography of an experience one summer evening as she passed under a large Syringa bush in full bloom:

It was glistening and dripping with raindrops, and the scent that poured from it, mingling with the primitive, almost cosmic, smell of earth after rain, was so potent that suddenly I was shaken by a rapture beyond anything I had ever known. It was allied to sex – though I did not realise that at the time – but purer: a kind of crystallization of the ecstasy found in music, the awe inspired by the stars.

This erotic charge is certainly in Clarke’s music, and Lomon’s orchestration reinforces the composer’s distinctive voice. “Technically, the work is titled as being in three movements though I see it more as a (dominant) slow movement leading into an agitato finale,” comments Sarah-Jane Bradley.

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Sarah-Jane Bradley

The rest of the programme consisted of two fresh discoveries. Lionel Tertis championed Richard Walthew’s lovely montage of encores, A Mosaic in Ten Pieces (with Dedication). Originally published in 1900 for clarinet and piano, the composer orchestrated it in 1943 as a viola piece for Tertis to play at that year’s Proms. A charming confection, Sarah-Jane Bradley revelled in the piece and her playing of it is the equal of her legendary predecessor.
Contrastingly, Harry Waldo Warner’s large-scale Suite in D minor, Op. 58 is in three movements. (Waldo Warner is a name familiar from old record catalogues but completely forgotten by most music lovers.) Judging from the opus number, we deduced it must be a late work, probably written during WWII.
The manuscript survived in the collection of Lionel Tertis, and after him his pupil Harry Danks. Its publication and recording was a longstanding ambition of the late John White, for many years Professor of Viola and Head of Instrumental Studies at the Royal Academy of Music, who prepared the edition recorded here, but did not live to hear it played. (The viola and piano manuscript is marked up for string orchestra, the orchestral full score now realised by Tim Seddon.) Again, Sarah-Jane Bradley was a persuasive advocate, playing with authority and a beautiful tone, making it easy to forget how difficult much of the music actually is. She pointed to the last page, Molto allegro, and described it as, “a ridiculous race to the finish, and quite extraordinary viola writing.”

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Stephen Bell

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M is for May (Releases) … and Mancini, Mauriat, Mathis, Monkman and more …

Our May 2016 release includes several artists from the golden age of easy listening whom, we’re proud to say, are now as synonymous with Vocalion as the labels for which they originally recorded. And there’s another entry in our long-running series devoted to the KPM library.

Paul Mauriat, 1970s

Inimitable Gallic maestro Paul Mauriat is featured on six albums across three separate CDs, each showcasing his elegant orchestral arrangements. The albums C’est La Vie … Lily (1968) and Comme J’ai Toujours Envie D’aimer (1969) are from the earlier part of his vast Philips discography. Typical of Mauriat in their colourful interpretations of English, American and European pop, they include The Beatles’ Let it Be, the Bacharach-David evergreen Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head and Mungo Jerry’s In the Summertime alongside Claude Bolling’s charming theme from the film Borsalino and Enrico Macias and Pierre Cour’s Paris S’allume. Rain and Tears (1968) & Vole Vole Farandole (1969) traverse much the same territory, offering up another carefully selected blend of English, American and European contemporary pop, all in the Mauriat style. Piano Ballade (1984) and Remember (1990) are from the latter part of Mauriat’s discography, and demonstrate not only that he was he able to move with the times but also that he doggedly kept the flag flying for quality middle-of-the-road music. Among Piano Ballade’s twelve titles are touching renditions of Lionel Richie’s Hello, Elton John’s Sad Songs (Say So Much) and Phil Collins’s power ballad Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now). The Remember album is cut from rather more traditional cloth, comprising a selection of evergreens that come up anew in Mauriat’s hands. Each Paul Mauriat CD also includes one or more rare bonus tracks.

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Henry “Hank” Mancini, that doyen of film and television music, returns to the fold in another CD containing two classic RCA albums. Both from the early ’70s, Mancini Concert and Mancini Plays the Theme from Love Story highlight different facets of his music making. Recorded to tie-in with Mancini’s 1971 American concert tour, Mancini Concert is just that – a studio recording of the sort of varied programme his audiences had come to expect. The highlight is undoubtedly Portrait of Simon and Garfunkel, a heartfelt orchestral rendering of several of the legendary duo’s best-known melodies. In addition to inventive orchestrations of other contemporary material including selections from The Who’s rock opera Tommy and the Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice opus Jesus Christ Superstar, Mancini looks back to his swing era roots in Big Band Montage. A Mancini album wouldn’t be complete without some of his own music, and Mancini Concert addresses that through the inclusion of March with Mancini, a medley of themes from Peter Gunn, The Great Race and elsewhere. The Mancini Plays the Theme from Love Story album capitalised on his smash-hit arrangement of Francis Lai’s film theme. Indeed, film music is the album’s cornerstone, and it includes several rare Mancini themes such as The Night Visitor, The Hawaiians and Theme for Three, the last of these from the Audrey Hepburn movie Wait until Dark.

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In The Hollywood Musicals (1986), Henry Mancini teams up with legendary balladeer Johnny Mathis for a programme of standards drawn from the great American songbook. The combination of Mathis’s smooth-as-silk voice and Mancini’s sophisticated orchestrations bring a new dimension to such classics as You Stepped Out of a Dream, True Love and It Might as Well Be Spring. Another legendary American singer, Harry Belafonte, features in two albums, Homeward Bound (1968) and Belafonte Sings of Love (1969), in which he puts his own unique stamp on material by Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Fred Neil, Jim Webb, Harry Nilsson, Gordon Lightfoot and others.

A further helping of stylish easy listening comes courtesy of American pianist Peter Nero, with two albums, one his last for RCA (Love Trip, 1969), the other his first for CBS (From Hair to Hollywood, 1969). Love Trip places Nero in a variety of settings, from perky R&B, orchestral and Latin American to small group jazz. From Hair to Hollywood is somewhat unusual in that Nero plays the then-new Moog synthesizer on a few tracks, but for the most part sticks with his keyboard instrument of choice, the acoustic piano. As the album title suggests, the material is divided into film themes and titles from the rock musical, Hair.

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Continuing the theme of our Floyd Cramer CDs, we pay another visit to Nashville, the beating heart of country music, via four albums by guitarist-producer Chet Atkins, who helped shape so many albums in RCA’s “Nashville Sound” Studio. Solid Gold ’68 and Solid Gold ’69 are based on the same concept as that of Floyd Cramer’s Class of … series, each containing a selection of pop hits in tasteful arrangements framing Atkins’ economic yet lyrical guitar style. Yestergroovin’ (1970) and Lover’s Guitar (1969) together comprise a further example of the Atkins guitar style, in tunes including Cherokee, Bring Me Sunshine, Yestergroovin’, How High the Moon and The Look of Love.

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The albums Classical Concussion and Predictions, both from 1979, represent Vocalion’s latest voyage into the archives of the KPM 1000 Series, one of the world’s leading recorded music libraries and the home of such famous TV themes as News at Ten, Grandstand, Wimbledon, All Creatures Great and Small and Owen M.D.

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The work of brilliantly gifted composer-keyboardist Francis Monkman – a founder member of progressive bands Curved Air and Sky – Classical Concussion and Predictions are from the same era as his superb score for gangland thriller The Long Good Friday. In fact, Classical Concussion, recorded at Lansdowne Studios in November 1978, seems to anticipate in places The Long Good Friday’s music. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the opening track, Release of Energy (a), a thrilling title theme that embedded itself in the consciousness of British cinemagoers thanks to its use (in abridged form) as the Rank Cinema chain’s Preview Time jingle. The dramatic Power Games also became familiar to British cinemagoers through its use as the Rank Cinema intermission theme. With its emphasis on electronic music, Predictions (1979) is in the same mould as that of Sky’s debut album, from the same year. The imposing Passajig (a) is an unusual concoction of rhythm section, synthesizer, church organ and, remarkably, the State Trumpeters of the Band of The Household Cavalry. The magnificent sound of the State Trumpeters introduces Prelude (a), a pulsating underscore with synthesizer ostinato that conjures up visions of a futuristic metropolis. But the album’s best-known track is Hypercharge, thanks to its inclusion in Arthur Gibson’s award-winning 1981 documentary about the Red Arrows, the aerobatics display team of the Royal Air Force.

As ever, Michael J. Dutton has remastered each of the above releases directly from the original analogue tapes.

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More Dutton Epoch Discoveries

The new Dutton Epoch release features six CDs: three in the International Series alongside three British music discoveries – and with more in the can for later in the year. For the past sixteen years, Dutton Epoch has specialised in exploring the hidden byways of British music, in the process uncovering many delightful works, such as the complete symphonic output of Richard Arnell. More recently, however, the International Series has widened the label’s scope, and among much superb music, perhaps the most notable find has been the music of German composer Walter Braunfels (1882-1954).

At a recording session with the conductor Johannes Wildner and the BBC Concert Orchestra in 2012, we discussed which neglected twentieth-century German or Austrian composer would be the most rewarding to focus on next in his series with the Concert Orchestra. I happened to mention Walter Braunfels. Johannes’ enthusiasm was immediate and characteristically unrestrained, and I was asked to

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research Braunfels’ unrecorded music and recommend a first programme, which was recorded on 15-17 April 2013. This proved so successful that in April 2014 we were back in the studio – this time Studio 1 at Abbey Road – for a second Braunfels programme, which was even more enthusiastically received by the recording team, and a commitment to do a third CD came then and there. On these occasions, it is very difficult to be precise as to running time, and one item from the April 2014 sessions – the Straussian Prelude to Braunfels’ opera Don Gil von den grünen Hosen (Don Gil of the Green Breeches) – had to be carried over because we had recorded too much material. So on 10-12 November 2014 all convened again, at Watford Town Hall (or the Watford Colosseum as it is now known). As well as tuneful orchestral extracts from two operas – Don Gil and Die Vögel – this third set of sessions included the pre-First World War Serenade Op. 20, a fine work that should surely figure in popular orchestral repertoire the world over. The programme was completed by the unknown but hugely attractive Konzerstück in C sharp minor for piano and orchestra Op. 64 – in effect a post-Second World War piano concerto – which the amiable and good-humoured Piers Lane threw off with complete authority, as if he had been playing it all his life. When I was taking photographs after the session, Piers joked, “Aren’t you going to take the usual corny shot? You need to get my reflection in the lid.” I did my best to oblige.

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The other new titles in the International Series were researched by conductor Martin Yates, and with particular soloists in mind. Sergei Bortkiewicz (1877-1952) and Witold Maliszewski (1873-1939) both came from the Russian musical tradition before the Revolution, but in fact were born in the Ukraine, though Maliszewski is often thought of as a Polish composer (indeed, he was Lutoslawski’s teacher), and Bortkiewicz lived for many years in Vienna. Nevertheless, the earlier orchestral music of both is clearly rooted in the mainstream Russian tradition. The Bortikiewicz and Maliszewski programmes were recorded at the RSNO’s former home, Henry Wood Hall, a converted church where so many of Dutton Epoch’s sessions with the RSNO have been recorded. Sadly, these were the last to be undertaken there. Pianist Peter Donohoe projected Maliszewski’s impressive Piano Concerto in B flat minor in his customary commanding manner, while the coupling, the Third Symphony of 1907, emerged as a full-scale romantic Russian symphony that somehow had fallen into obscurity. Even more striking was Sergei Bortkiewicz’s huge Violin Concerto of 1922, which soloist Sergey Levitin has taken to his heart. The Symphonic Poem “after Shakespeare’s Othello” makes a strong coupling. This completely unknown orchestral piece, completed just before the outbreak of the First World War, is a rewarding addition to our repertoire of Russian music, and had all gripped as it unfolded in the studio.

The three CDs of British music feature Armstrong Gibbs, Vaughan Williams, Cyril Scott, Arnold Bax and George Butterworth.

Conductor Ronald Corp presents an all-Armstrong Gibbs programme, including the majority of the composer’s unrecorded yet substantial orchestral music, which proved to be a minor revelation for its lyrical attractiveness and personal style. Even though we had explored the printed music in advance of the sessions via piano play-throughs or in electronic playback of a “Sibelius” file, the first hearing of the music at the sessions themselves is always a magical moment. Especially so when we hear the miracle of sight-reading that British orchestras always deliver at the first rehearsal, before getting down to the detailed work of the session itself. In this case, the orchestra was the BBC Concert Orchestra, and this music, very much their métier, was meat and drink to them. It was a varied programme full of delights. The five-movement suite from the children’s play Crossings is short, but something that one goes on playing once it is on the personal radar. Different in sound and texture, and indeed quite a contrast – yet written in 1919, the same year as Crossings – is The Enchanted Wood Op. 25. This the composer called “a dance phantasy,” and the scoring for string orchestra with solo violin and piano is haunting. The leader of the BBC Concert Orchestra, Charles Mutter, played the solo violin part, with Ben Dawson as the pianist.

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The largest orchestral line-up on the session was assembled to record the atmospheric Symphonic Poem A Vision of Night Op. 38 of 1921. Dedicated to Arthur Bliss, it was first performed on 8 March 1923 by the Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra. Unlike Gibbs’s other music, this piece is a study in orchestral colour, calling, in addition to the full orchestra, on a large array of low winds – and it was particularly exciting to see David Chatterton wielding the contra-bass sarrusophone beside the bassoons.

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The remainder of the Gibbs programme proved to be even more varied, including the Suite in A for violin and orchestra Op. 101 of 1942 (five miniature movements with Charles Mutter as the soloist once more) and Gibbs’s most famous composition, the haunting slow waltz Dusk, which enjoyed almost pop-music status in the mid-1940s. And Gibbs’s appeal to a light music audience was reinforced when we heard the Four Orchestral Dances of 1959.

Putting together programmes by different composers is a difficult thing to do, and Dutton Epoch usually plans them based on one composer. Apart from anything else, it makes reviews easier to locate after the CD has appeared. However, the mix of Cyril Scott’s evocative nature ramble celebrating cellist Beatrice Harrison, The Melodist and the Nightingales, with Arnold Bax’s very early Variations for Orchestra and Martin Yates’s completion and performing edition of George Butterworth’s last work, Fantasia for Orchestra, which survived unfinished when Butterworth died in France, makes for a satisfying programme. In The Melodist and the Nightingales, the principal cello of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Aleksei Kiseliov, found a special rapport with conductor Martin Yates in championing what in other hands might well have fallen flat. But here they weave a magical musical web.

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The Melodist and the Nightingales was recorded in the Caird Hall, Dundee, a location the Dutton Epoch team had not visited before, and it was in this wonderfully responsive acoustic that Dutton Epoch’s new Vaughan Williams programme was set down, featuring a major outcome of Martin Yates’s researches through the Vaughan Williams manuscripts in the British Library. This is the orchestral suite from RVW’s opera Sir John in Love, to which the composer gave the working title Fat Knight. And what a gorgeously attractive piece it is – seven movements including some familiar RVW tunes, but also reminding us of some that come up fresh. The coupling is Yates’s vivid orchestration of Vaughan Williams’s Henry V Overture, surely a precursor of Walton’s film score of ten years on, and Vaughan Williams’s familiar and much-loved Serenade to Music, here recorded in its entrancing orchestral version and prompting one to ask why it is not thus better known.

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Session photographs by Lewis Foreman
Blog post written by Lewis Foreman

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