Saturday, 16 February 2008

Alan Rawsthorne: Practical Cats


The latest tranche of releases from Dutton Epoch British music looks great! A trip down Oxford Street in search at least one of them is on the cards tonight. Especially high on my wants list is the disc of music by Alan Rawsthorne. This is a seriously good collection of rare or missing works from his catalogue. Of course this North Country composer from Haslingden is hardly a household name, yet by any criteria he is one of the most important composers of the second half of the 20th century.

Rawsthorne’s take on T.S. Elliot’s Book of Practical Cats is, to my ear at any rate, infinitely more appropriate than Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats! It has been recorded before – with Robert Donat as the narrator – way back in 1954. But I reckon that Simon Callow will be a great alternative version.
Madame Chrysanthème is an ‘exotic’ suite somewhat removed from much that the composer wrote. Street Corner Overture, written for ENSA is ubiquitous – but well deserved yet another recording.
But the highlights for me must be the three works that I have never heard before: they are receiving their World Premiere Recordings. These include a potentially fine Coronation March from 1953, a Medieval Diptych, for baritone & orchestra (1962) which is a setting of an anonymous text and lastly the Theme, Variations and Finale for Orchestra. This is a late work written in 1967. Alan Rawsthorne was born in 1905 and died in 1971.

Alan RawsthorneStreet Corner Overture (1944)
Madame Chrysanthème Ballet Suite (1957): Practical Cats – An entertainment for speaker and orchestra (1954)Verses from ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’ by T.S. Eliot:Theme, Variations & Finale (1967)Medieval Diptych, for baritone & orchestra (1962) Coronation Overture (1953)R Simon Callow (narrator) Jeremy Huw Williams (baritone)
David Lloyd-Jones conducts the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

CDLX 7203

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