Sunday, September 17, 2006

Treasure trove of 20th century composers

It is funny how articles follow unplanned themes. Last week turned out to be very much French, and this week we seem to have a very welcome British theme. Lyrita was founded in 1959 as a small independent UK label specialising in British music, and many of their releases went on to become legendary. Their sessions were recorded by the Decca team during their “golden period”, and some of the early recordings used valve (tube) equipment. The LP issues delivered demonstration quality analogue sound, and the many Lyrita vinyl LPs in my collection still sound better than many of the latest CDs.

Lyrita virtually disappeared from the catalogues with the demise of the LP, but the great news is that they have just become available again, with an initial release of 37 CDs being expanded to cover the full catalogue by 2009. The new availability is the result of a distribution deal with Wyastone Estate, the company that was created out of the failed Nimbus operation.

There are some real riches in the first release as the names of the composers (including one woman) will tell you - William Alwyn, Malcolm Arnold, Arnold Bax, William Sterndale Bennett, Lennox Berkeley, Arthur Bliss, Geoffrey Bush, John Foulds, Daniel Jones, Alun Hoddinott, Gustav Holst, William Hurlstone, William Mathias, Hubert Parry, Alan Rawsthorne, Edmund Rubbra, Charles Villiers Stanford, Michael Tippett, William Walton, Grace Williams, Vaughan Williams, and William Wordsworth. What is even more exciting is that there are some unreleased digital recordings to follow the first release, including more Bush and Stanford, plus the first CD releases of some personal LP favourites including four CDs of Gerald Finzi's music.


It is invidious to pick favourites from among the first 37 CDs, but for me Norman del Mar's Rubbra Symphonies stand out, as these were the recordings that introduced me to this grossly underrated composer. And then there are William Alwyn's symphonies, and his scandalously neglected 1977 opera Miss Julie, and Sir Colin Davis conducting Tippett's Midsummer Marriage with Alberto Remedios singing the role of Mark. But the whole catalogue is a treasure trove of mid-20th century music which I urge you to explore. Follow this link for full details.

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If you enjoyed this post take An Overgrown Path to The Year is '72

1 comment:

Garth Trinkl said...

I have William Alwyn's Miss Julie and Tippett's Midsummer Marriage in their Lyrita LP first lives. Your post will encourage me to see what other neglected operas I have in my too long neglected LP opera collection.

I don't believe that I have a Lyrita Holst Savitri, but only the later Hyperion CD. The national Asian art museum here did a beautiful version of the Holst one-act opera, a half a decade ago, with a stunningly beautiful simple set be British contemporary artist Howard Hodgkins.... Thanks for the insightful post and listening suggestions!