Made in Britain

COMPOSERS: Butterworth,Delius,Elgar,German,Walton & Vaughan Williams,Works by Bax
ALBUM TITLE: Made in Britain
WORKS: Works by Bax, Butterworth, Delius, Elgar, German, Walton & Vaughan Williams
PERFORMER: James Clark (violin); RLPO/John Wilson


The CD cover design suggests English-music wallpaper, and so does the nostalgia-orientated promotional push behind the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (RLPO)’s ‘Made in Britain’ project. Fortunately the choice of music and level of playing both tell a different story. It’s difficult to think of anything less nostalgic in tone than Walton’s roguish Scapino, performed with a scintillating brilliance that sets the classy tone of what follows. Play-safe items are present, of course – Elgar’s Salut d’amour, and Vaughan Williams’s English Folk Song Suite No. 1. James Clark’s way with the solo violin part of the The Lark Ascending lacks the spellbinding quality of Hugh Bean’s recording under Adrian Boult, but his playing has rapturous firepower.
And there’s also a willingness to explore some way off the beaten track. While exhuming Edward German’s Nell Gwynne Overture isn’t really worth the trouble, the sophisticated virtuosity of Bax’s The Happy Forest more than deserves a hearing. The first of Butterworth’s Two English Idylls gives no hint of the quiet musical magicianship that was soon to emerge in A Shropshire Lad; the second of them very much does. John Wilson’s conducting secures ultra-vivid, sparklingly finished performances that also respond memorably to the quieter moments, Delius’s A Walk to the Paradise Garden among them. The recorded balance is on the close-focus side, but gets away with it thanks to the surrounding space of Liverpool Philharmonic Hall’s acoustic.
Malcolm Hayes