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CHAN 9657
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CHAN 9657

Armstrong: Orchestral and Choral Works

The Classical Shop
release date: June 1998

Recorded in 24 Bit / 44.1Khz
album available as a Studio Master
Originally recorded in 1997

Artists:

London Philharmonic Orchestra

§

Paul Daniel


Stephen Varcoe

baritone†

Janice Watson

soprano*

London Philharmonic Choir



Venue:

Blackheath Halls, London



Producer:

Brian Couzens



Engineer:

Ralph Couzens



Record Label
Chandos

Genre:

Orchestral & Concertos




Total Time - 53:26
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THOMAS ARMSTRONG

(1898-1994)
Select Complete Single Disc for
   
  premiere recordings  
1 

A Passer-by†‡§

14:19
  Rhapsody for baritone, chorus and orchestra  
2 

Sinfonietta§

6:50
  for small orchestra  
3 

Fantasy Quintet§

8:27
  for piano and strings  
  in F major - in F-Dur - en fa majeur  
  Catherine Edwards piano  
4 

Never Weather-beaten Sail‡

2:04
5 

She is not Fair to Outward View‡

1:09
6 

O Mortal Folk‡

2:14
7 

New Year Carol‡

1:42
8 

Sweet Day‡

2:23
9 

With Margerain Gentle‡

2:17
10 

Friends Departed*†‡

12:01


All of the works featured on this album are premiere recordings, this album is an absolute must for all lovers of English music.

From his early youth Thomas Armstrong was set upon a career in music. His father was a music teacher and conductor. Tom, from the age of nine, was a chorister in the choir of the Chapel Royal. He regarded this training as invaluable. Having completed his organ scholarship at Keble College, Oxford, Armstrong tendered three compositions for his Doctorate; A Passer-By (1922), the Fantasy Quintet for Pianoforte and Strings (1925) and Friends Departed (1928).

Throughout his years at Oxford and the Royal Academy, Armstrong’s church music maintained its place in the choral repertoire. he had a natural sensitivity for setting words to music. All the pieces choosen for this recording (with the exception of the six English part songs) present a portrait of the musician as a young, and technically accomplished composer. He forged himself a personal style  based on the elements he loved most in the composers of the late-nineteenth century and in his older English and European contemporaries such as Parry, Elgar, Holst, Vaughan Williams, Wagner and Richard Strauss. Although Armstrong does not succeed in creating a personal style he achieves a stylistic synthesis only possible by a born composer. His precocious technical mastery and burning sincerity ensure the validity of this belated premiere performance.

A Passer-By contains four principal ideas and there are sharp but successful changes of mood throughout the work. There are several particularly memorable moments within this piece; the a cappella entry of the choir, the first baritone entry, the paragraph which begins just after ’Thy white sails furling’ and the touching Parry-influenced setting of ’Thy port assured in a happier land than mine’. A final surprise includes a distant brass fanfare where the corus splits into a double chorus, the one echoing the other, beckoning the splendid ship of the title ’to the farther shore’.

The Sinfonietta for small orchestra reveals a vey different side of Armstrong’s talent. The piece fits comfortably into English pastoral tradition as associated with Vaughan Williams, Finzi and Howells. But Ravel’s msuci and Delius’s Brigg Fair, one of Armstrong’s favourite compositions, may be the most powerful  influences.


The Fantasy for Quintet for Pianoforte and Strings is an imposing instrumental composition. The two main influences here are the emerging English school with its use of modal harmony and the neglected English master and occultist, Cyril Scott, much admired by Debussy and by Armstrong himself.

The six English part songs were composed at different stages of his life and not written as a set; only the first two were published. They demonstrate that as Armstrong got older, as he told his son, he felt the paramount need to simplify things.

The album closes with Armstrong’s second work for chorus and orchestra, Friend Departed, a setting of the poem by Henry Vaughan. To his orchestra the composer adds a soprano solo, harp, celesta, bass drum and triangle. Written in 1928 this is more mature and more unified in style than A Passer-By. In this second cantata Armstrong reduces his material to a single quintessential English theme complex and a harmonic-melodic cell. it is a fitting testimony to one of the most outstanding musicians of his generation.

"... Paul Daniel, who must be the finest conductor Britain has produced for decades, captures the mood of nostalgia that permeates much of Armstrong’s music. The chorus sings with clarity of diction and a security that usually comes from a long association with the music ... The LPO also has that luminous quality, particularly in the warm and opulent string tone, it reserves for the great conductors in its life. The sonics are really out of the top drawer, and Anglophiles around the world shouls certainly add the disc to their collection."

David Denton - Fanfare - November/December 1998


"Here is an enjoyable centenary tribute to Sir Thomas Armstrong ...Paul Daniel draws an enthusiastic ... well-drilled response from his assembled forces ... Chandos’s engineering is characteristically ripe and spacious."

AA - Gramophone - November 1998


"...Well worth exploration."

The Sunday Telegraph - 13 September 1998


                            Performance *****          Sound *****

"...Soloists Stephen Varcoe and Janice Watson, with the LPO Choir, give touching performances, while the orchestra, on top form, is beautifully coaxed and controlled by Paul Daniel in the exquisite Sinfonietta, whose snatches of cor anglis prove hauntingly unforgettable."

Roderic Dunnett - BBC Music magazine - October 1998


"...The style is English pastorialism in its roots, and in these passionate performances the soul in the music comes thrillingly to life."

Robert Beale - Manchester Evening News - 31 July 1998


"... The performances are praiseworthy in everyway. Varcoe is particularly eloquent, all involved address the music with obvious commitment and affection... Chandos’s sound is up to its usual high standard."

Lucas - American Record Guide- July/August 1999


              Performance ****       Sound *****

"... this is unquestionably a valuable release. Excellent first recordings of music by a virtually unkown English twentieth century composer."

Terry Blain - Classic CD - September 1998


   Performance ****      Recording ****

"...Fine performances, superbly recorded..."

Yorkshire Post - August 1998




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