John Foulds Dynamic Triptych Review

Album. Released 2006.  

BBC Review

Warner Classics' second disc of music by the undeservingly neglected British...

Andrew McGregor 2006

John Foulds? British composer, son of a bassoonist in the Hallé Orchestra, born in Manchester in 1880...and he died suddenly less than 60 years later in Calcutta, where he was in charge of music on an Indian radio station.

Foulds lived a fascinating life which incorporated a career as a professional cellist, a conductor, a successful composer of light music and music for the troops in the First World War. He worked as a cinema pianist, and he became fascinated by modes, microtones, and the ragas of Indian music.

Foulds was a radical composer in Paris in the late 20s, when he wrote the main work on this disc: Dynamic Triptych, a bravura re-interpretation of the piano concerto. Each movement focuses on a different aspect of Foulds' musical language. 'Dynamic Mode' is first, an energetic virtuosic display based only on seven pitches of a South Indian raag. The second movement, 'Dynamic Timbre', is an exercise in subtle orchestral colour, quarter-tones included...and the finale is a rhythmic toccata based on a sequence of time signatures that allow it to morph into a waltz and a march as it romps along.

Peter Donohoe is a powerfully committed soloist, and there'll be moments in the second movement particularly which will have you catching your breath, when you realise that Foulds is already beginning to occupy an orchestral soundworld that still feels modern.

Alongside the main work, the rest of the disc feels charming but inconsequential: April-England could be Percy Grainger does Vaughan Williams. The notes equate Foulds' 'Music Pictures Group III' to Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition', but they lack the originality of Mussorgsky, or of the Dynamic Triptych for that matter. 'The Song of Ram Dass' is an evocative oriental miniature, and the 'Keltic Lament' (sic) is one of Foulds' most famous melodies.

Playing and recording are first class, and this is a worthy successor to Warner Classics' first volume of Foulds, restoring a lost voice in British music to its proper place.

Like This? Try These:
Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition (Evgeny Kissin)
Griffes: Orchestral Music (Buffalo Philharmonic)
Clifford/Bainton: Epithalamion (BBC Philharmonic)

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