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Sakari Oramo and CBSO make second recording of music by John Foulds

Sakari Oramo and CBSO make second recording of music by John Foulds

Sakari Oramo and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra have recorded a second disc of music by the little-known British composer John Foulds (1880-1939) for Warner Classics. The first disc, which included world premiere recordings of Mirage and Lyra Celtica, was released at the end of 2004 to superb reviews. The Independent on Sunday said, ‘The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra have rarely sounded more ravishing than in Foulds’s 1910 “music-poem” Mirage’, while The Gramophone advised: ‘Don’t miss this gem of a release’. The Finnish conductor Sakari Oramo is a great champion of the music of John Foulds and has given several first-performances of his work, sometimes having to go back to the original manuscripts as there are no scores printed. The new disc will include Music Pictures (Group III), Dynamic Triptych (a work for piano and orchestra which features Peter Donohoe, pictured left, as soloist), Indian Suite and Chinese Suite and will be released in May 2006. John Foulds has been described as a ‘quintessential eccentric’ and as ‘England’s answer to Charles Ives’. When he started composing, Foulds was a fairly typical English late-Romantic but, as he went on, he experimented with Greek modes, extreme chromaticism, bitonality, quarter-tone scales and exoticism. Unfortunately, few of his scores have survived so Foulds is little known today and it is difficult to assess his musical contribution. John Foulds took piano lessons from the age of four and began composing three years later. At ten, he began to study the cello and he left home at 13 to play in local orchestras and bands before joining the cello section of the Hallé Orchestra in 1900. Traveling extensively as a young man, Foulds met a number of European composers, including Bartók, Mahler, Delius, Richard Strauss and Busoni, whose work influenced his own. In 1906, shortly after Henry Wood premiered Foulds’s orchestral piece, Epithalamium, at a London Promenade Concert, Foulds parted company with the Hallé to concentrate on composing. Apotheosis: Music-Poem No. 4 for solo violin and orchestra ‘Dedicated to the memory of Joseph Joachim’ was composed in 1909 and Mirage: Music-Poem No. 5 was composed in 1910. Between 1914 and 1926, he lived mainly in London, where he supported himself composing light music, including his popular Keltic Suite, and works for the theatre, including his incidental music for the first production of George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan. Lyra Celtica, a wordless concerto for voice and orchestra, was composed around 1925. Together with his second wife, the violinist and theosophist Maud McCarthy, Foulds moved to Paris in 1927. McCarthy had a strong interest in Eastern music and Foulds also became interested in Ancient Greek and Indian music. The Three Mantras, partly composed in Paris, are all that survives of a planned three-act Sanskrit opera, Aventara. After a brief return to London in 1930, he moved to India in 1935, where he studied Indian folk music and formed an experimental Indo-European orchestra that combined Western and native instruments. He was working on a Symphony of East and West when he died of cholera in Calcutta in 1939. The CBSO gave two concerts last week which included Foulds’s Music Pictures Group III which received outstanding four-star reviews in The Times, Daily Telegraph and The Guardian. In November 2005 they gave a concert which included Peter Donohoe performing Dymnamic Triptych which received glowing and interested reviews in Daily Telegraph and The Guardian.

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