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A Shropshire Lad/Banks of Green Willow

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Audio CD, November 18, 1997
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Product Details

  • Performer: Christopher Hirons
  • Orchestra: English String Orchestra
  • Conductor: William Boughton
  • Composer: Frank Bridge, George Butterworth, Hubert Parry
  • Audio CD (November 18, 1997)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nimbus Records
  • ASIN: B0000037C0
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #236,780 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
This cd is worth buying already for the first 4 tracks, being most of the work that remains of George Butterworth, a composer who died too young as an officer in the battle of the Somme in 1916. If one hears the delicate and intense melodies and harmonies, the perfect setting of the instruments, one has to wonder what would have become of George Butterworth if he had not been shot by a German sniper. Gerald Finzi seems to be influenced by the work of Butterworth, and it is easy to hear how and why that is.The works of the other composers on this cd, especially the work of Parry, make it obvious that there is a good English tradition in classical music, that should deserve more of our attention.
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Format: Audio CD
Previous reviewers have already described the music on this CD as well or better than I could, but I have to support their praise of one of the finest discs in my collection. Both the Parry and the Bridge suites are music of grace and charm, but the four works by George Butterworth are small masterpieces. Like Vaughan Williams, Butterworth was a dedicated and knowledgeable collector of English folk songs. The longest piece of his on this disc,The Shropshire Lad, does not, in fact, contain any folk melodies, but is strongly evocative of the rural setting of the poem sequence of that name by A.E.Houseman, which Butterworth had previously set to music. He used the melody from one of the songs in this song-cycle as the theme of the orchestral work. The two English Idylls, and The Banks of Green Willow, are based directly on folk songs.Unlike many composers who have sought to adapt folk music, Butterworth is able to use a rich, full range of orchestral sound while preserving the simplicity and directness of the original tunes. All of his works on this CD are of the highest quality. The two Idylls are shorter and simpler, the Shropshire Lad has a great romantic sweep, but my favorite has to be The Banks of Green Willow, a beautiful treatment of two classic English folksongs, the title song and Bushes and Briars. On a lighter note, I have two other reasons for liking this disc. Several decades ago The Banks of Green Willow was used to introduce a BBC radio adaptation of the classic historical novel, Lorna Doone. As a pre-adolescent I thus became hooked on classical music and on reading books that were too old for me. Also,this CD was recorded in the Great Hall at the University of Birmingham(the one in England, not Alabama). Guess where I took my finals. Brum rules!!
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Format: Audio CD
This recording, also issued in the U.S. by the well-known Musical Heritage Society (5153293 being the issue number on the M.H.S. disc's surface, 515329-X on the box's recto and verso paper inserts), presents some very agreeable and eminently approachable English music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Alas, while the music is accessible and mostly pleasantly melodious, it is of variable quality. In short, Parry's and Bridge's works seem like "small change" in the company that they keep on this CD with Butterworth's truly exquisite folk-tinted pastoral music, gorgeous tone poems (though not termed that) that they are. To be fair, this is due to the choice of Parry's and Bridge's music being from among their more derivative and pallidly academic-sounding works in order to share disc space with some of the very best strains of Butterworth's most memorable music.

Sir Hubert Parry's "Lady Radnor's Suite" is a clever example of "Baroque pastiche", imitating 18th century dances in orchestral garb that reminds one of the warmly robust textures of Sir Hamilton Harty's performing editions of suites of excerpts from G.F. Handel's "Water Music" and "Royal Fireworks Music". As such intentionally derivative music goes, Parry's suite probably shows more genuine understanding and absorbtion of Baroque dance suite style and meolodic-harmonic content (apart from in the obviously differently motivated "Slow Minuet" movement) than most such efforts. On the other hand, it does not offer much besides such feigned manner in a work which, indeed, is what the French might term an "exercice de style"; one thinks of the best of similar works which add something more to the mix, e.g.
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Format: Audio CD
It can get better than this, but it won't happen every day. This veteran album of English string music by George Butterworth, Hubert Parry and Frank Bridge is a standout of this genre. Boughton and his ensemble capture every essence, each facet just right. If you like this kind of music but haven't traveled much beyond Ralph Vaughan Williams, give this disc a try. It will widen your horizons immensely.
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