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Orchestrations by Sir Henry Wood

SRCD216
£14.99

Details

Henry Wood may be best known now as the founder of the Proms and the arranger of the Fantasia on British Sea Songs heard on their last night. The orchestrations on this disc date from between 1905 and 1929. By that time at the very least he was recognized as a thoroughly professional musician with a wide practical knowledge of what the orchestra can be made to do. Many of these versions were made for inclusion in concerts to commemorate specific events. The Granados, Grieg and Debussy pieces were included in concerts commemorating their composer’s deaths, the Chopin the death of Joseph Joachim, and the Scharwenka the achievement of Polish independence in 1919.

Like all of the works here these transcriptions are very obviously the work of a master of his craft, capable of achieving the varied effects that he felt the various pieces require. An enjoyable collection shedding new light on Henry Wood. The conductor Sir Henry Wood was an adept of grand orchestration and continued in this activity after such indulgences had ceased to be fashionable. Who but Lyrita would give us such a valuable collection and annotate it in such princely detail at the hands of Lewis Foreman?

Orchestrations by Sir Henry Wood

Reviews

Like all of the works here these transcriptions are very obviously the work of a master of his craft, capable of achieving the varied effects that he felt the various pieces require. The Debussy goes much further than mere good workmanship. It uses a gong, various bells, two harps and organ pedals as well as a large orchestra to create a complex texture of often very quiet sounds. I can’t imagine that Debussy would have orchestrated it like this, but that does not invalidate it as the working of another highly imaginative musical mind on the original piano piece.

The largest piece on the disc is the "Pictures at an Exhibition", again arranged with great imagination and freedom, but inevitably inviting comparison with Ravel’s version of 1922. Whilst I greatly enjoyed Wood’s version it has to be said that in terms of imagination and ability to illuminate the implications of the music Ravel wins almost all the way. Perhaps that impression may be due in part to the greater familiarity of the latter but side-by-side comparison does confirm this view. The late Arthur Jacobs’ book about Sir Henry lists many other arrangements, including more Bach, some of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies and various pieces by Handel.

I very much hope that this well filled and well recorded disc will have the success it deserves and that it will soon be followed by recordings of some of Sir Henry’s other arrangements.

John Sheppard, Musicweb-international.com

"These are unashamedly big boned, romanticized orchestrations. Mussorgsky's 'Picture' has been immortally orchestrated by Ravel but Wood's version holds its own extremely well. Braithwaite and the LPO play all works with utter conviction and this tribute to one of the great conductors of the past should be snapped up without delay. Lewis Foreman's brilliantly evocative notes are also essential reading and Lyrita's recording is also top drawer quality." Gerald Fenech, classical.net