Rule Britannia [2CD Set]
This generous collection brings together a selection that covers British music from the 17th and 18th century on disc one and on the second showcases music from the late 19th and early 20th century. The discs reflect centuries of martial and theatrical music from composers who are both familiar and lesser known.
"This CD features several particular composers who have written pieces of music that are quintessentially British: Jeremiah Clarke, George Frideric Handel, John Stanley, John Eccles, Henry Purcell, William Corbett, Edward Elgar, Arthur Sullivan, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst and Thomas Arne. The pieces here are triumphant, celebrating that particular period of Empire when the British ruled vastly such that the sun never set upon it - one of the key elements of such triumphant music-making, particularly for the time, was the use of brass and trumpet. Some of the later composers included here draw on inspirations from these earlier times. One of the featured performers on this collection is John Wallace, who was principal trumpet of the Philharmonia Orchestra since the 1970s; he founded the brass ensemble, the Wallace Collection, ten years later in 1986. In 2002, he became principal of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, Scotland, and the Wallace Collection gave their last performance shortly thereafter. However, the Wallace Collection lives on in performances on CD such as this one, performed with William Boughton and the English String Orchestra. Other tracks are performed by Scottish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Alexander Faris and the English String Orchestra conducted by Stephen Darlington. Pieces here are very familiar to anyone with an interested in British national composition -- pieces such as the Water Music by Handel are very famous, as are Holst's 'Planets' and Sullivan's (of Gilbert & Sullivan) 'Pinafore'; other pieces, such as Clarke's 'Trumpet Voluntary', are similarly famous even if their composers did not achieve the 'brand recognition' that Handel did. All of the composers here came from the period spanning the late 1600s to the late 1700s, when music was as often written for music halls and public performances as it was for royal events and commissions. The performances here are uniformly upbeat and well played, with little by way of blemish save the occasional drop and surge in levels (as often becomes the case when recording music with sharp brass elements). One can envision theatres full of people waving Union Jacks while this plays, and many of the pieces have a quality about them that speaks directly to the time and place of Britain."-Kurt Messick "