How does this CD hold up against other discs? Firstly let it be noted that there are no other similarly coupled discs so if you are intent on the famous Colour Symphony and his last major orchestral work then you will need this CD. As for the orchestra they are every bit the fine instrument that later resulted in them being used extensively by Nimbus and increasingly by others. Let’s leave the composer’s own historic mono recording of the Symphony in its own specialist compound. Barry Wordsworth is no Bliss one-off. He also in 1994 recorded the Blow Meditations, Cello Concerto (Robert Cohen) and the Introduction and Allegro for Argo. His engaging way with the more feral moments in the first movement of the Symphony, in the sweetly serenading ‘Blue’ and the subtly built and lissom euphoric mood of the ‘Green’ finale. are strengths. The intricate and intriguing Variations are haunting but represent a slow-burn even among Bliss fanatics. Bliss’s orchestral technique had been stropped to a finely honed edge and there is little of the congestion occasionally experienced in the writing of the symphony. That said there is a tendency to congealed density in the rowdily triumphant and at times Mahlerian Affirmation - finale. The Interjections movement muses on his own Music for Strings and on Britten’s Grimes interludes. Those castanets in Polonaise still come as a surprise. This was the work’s first commercial recording. It’s well worth exploring but do not expect to be instantly seduced – it abjures glamour in favour of the philosophically reflective and that is exactly how it ends.
The notes and the artwork are by the late George Dannatt who together with his wife was the dedicatee of the Variations.
Rob Barnett, Musicweb-international.com