Many years ago (probably around 1972) I bought the Pye Golden Guinea album of music by Alan Rawsthorne, Peter Racine Fricker and Lennox Berkeley. In each case it was the first piece of music that I had consciously heard by any of these three composers. It was very much an ‘on spec’ purchase as I could not have conjectured what these works would have sounded like. I guess that it was simply because I clocked it was 20th century British music that I made the purchase. It may have seemed a little more adventurous than the LPs I had been buying around that time which had included Elgar’s Cello Concerto and Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony.
The three works on this LP were Rawsthorne’s Concerto for string orchestra (1949), Fricker’s Prelude, Elegy and Finale (1949) and Berkeley’s Serenade for Strings (1939).
The album was originally issued in 1965. It was played by the Little Orchestra of London under the baton of Leslie Jones. At this time, Jones was concentrating on Haydn with a considerable number of albums dedicated to his symphonies.
Edward Greenfield, writing in August 1965 edition of The Gramophone wrote of this LP that it was a ‘fine record of British string music to follow up the highly successful Haydn issues from this conductor and orchestra’. He concluded his general review by noting that ‘the playing on this record…is passionate and convincing...more than half the battle if a record of modern music is to do its work.’
My copy of the album was the stereo one on GSGC-14042: the monaural was released on GSCG-4042. I found an advert for the album in the July 1970 edition of the Gramophone so I assume that it must have been reissued at some point. John Dressler (Rawsthorne Bio-bibliography, 2004) notes that the Rawsthorne Concerto was reissued in 1997 on CD although I cannot find any other reference to this release.
Interestingly Michael Herman on MusicWeb’s ‘British Orchestral Music’ discography notes that Rawsthorne’s Concerto was issued on a Pye Collector label (GSGC-7060) also in 1965. This was coupled with the same composer’s Piano Quintet and Cello Sonata. I assume it is the same recording. It would appear that the Fricker and the Berkeley have not been reissued.
I immediately related to Lennox Berkeley’s Serenade, which has remained a favourite ever since. A few years later I purchased the Lyrita version (SRCS 69) of this work with the composer conducting and regarded this version as definitive. I recall being impressed with the Rawsthorne Concerto but was largely unmoved by the Fricker. In recent months I have come to revise this opinion. Listeners are fortunate in having a YouTube video of this recording of the Prelude, Elegy and Finale. I will discuss this work in a subsequent post, but meanwhile I suggest that anyone interested should listen to this piece while they can.