1986, Music

Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis et al. (1986) by Orford Quartet, CBC Vancouver Orchestra, Simon Street

This is one of those nonsensical compilations of pieces of “classical” music that are put together because all the music is performed by a similar ensemble, in this case String Quartet with Orchestra. So you have two very late romantic British composers (though Vaughan Williams music could be seen as something else, I guess) with two Canadian composers who don’t exactly fit. Only Canadian ensembles would so this.

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910/1913/1919)

I’m sure I’ve heard the Fantasia before but it still stirs me. It is one of the most magnificent things to come out of English high art music in the years of the 20th century prior to World War I. It might be the best.

Alexander Brott: Ritual (1942)

Alexander Brott’s Ritual is a fine piece of music. I’m sure that it’s notable in any way, given when it was written, but it is enjoyable if it far from innovative.

Edward Elgar: Introduction and Allegro for Strings, Op. 47 (7/10)

Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro for Strings is another thing I have heard somewhere. Like so much of his music, it is pleasant and well-done, but it pales in comparison to the work of his continental contemporaries, or even to Vaughan Williams at his best. The more I listen to Elgar, the more I become convinced, that he has a few works that we can deem canonical – Falstaff in particular – but that most of his music is good or very good, but not great.

Pierre Mercure: Divertissement (1957)

Mercure’s Divertissement is much like Brott’s piece. I like both of them. They are my kind of music. But it remains obvious to me why Gould is the most celebrated Canadian figure in “high art” music. The Canadian composers of the 20th century that I have heard never really broke ground in a way that their most famous American counterparts (Carter for example) did.

This is a weird collection, that pairs two famous pieces from the 1910s with two relatively unknown Canadian pieces from way later in the century. That’s certainly an odd combination.


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