Arcadia Lost

23/12/2011
Rob Barnett
Musicweb International (UK)

The Australian label Melba ensure, through their musical and design choices, that their discs could never be condemned as faceless. The author of the essay (English – French – German) is none other than Michael Kennedy so we know that corners have not been cut. The Housman poems are easily legible. The edge-faded and faux-foxed photos of a flooded English countryside on the cover show a time-worn watery Arcadia glimpsed across the decades. Great choices from the Melba design team.

Nothing here is rare but the combination of works is unique. There’s Britten’s grim and grittily impressive Sinfonia, two concertante works from RVW and a classic Housman work for piano quintet and tenor – the house tenor Steve Davislim. The orchestral items are conducted by Mark Wigglesworth...   The Lark is an excellent version: throaty, atmospheric, glitz-free and with telling attention to dynamics. Michael Dauth’s violin is caringly touching. There’s at least one cough. A very fine concert version. Flos Campi has Roger Benedict’s stirringly recorded viola: auburn, amber and russet in tone. The music is given a passionately taut surge rather than a flaccid sigh. Cantillation are heard in sound that is prominent and power-dressed. The Britten Sinfonia da Requiem ...is Britten’s only approach to a purely orchestral and epic toned symphony. Wigglesworth is excellent ...  These three works are quirkily joined by RVW’s On Wenlock Edge (not the orchestral version). In this the exemplary Steve Davislim is very Partridge like - wonderful.... The last verse of the first song has that authentic sinister and twig-rattling shiver rather like the witchery music in Warlock’s The Curlew. The last song, Clun has the feel of a sunset rounded with a sleep – peace achieved.
A disc that proclaims character in every aspect.