Author Topic: Sir Arthur Bliss  (Read 68525 times)

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Online vandermolen

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #240 on: July 29, 2019, 09:37:51 PM »
Yes check out the "Journey to the Stars" because it has a very different ending to any suite I've heard or the film itself. Probably the most epic.  Also my favorite version of "pestilence" because the horns rise to the very high B natural which is handed off to the trumpets in other recordings I've heard.  Much prefer the intensity here.
I certainly will do. Thanks
I have a recording of A London Symphony by Vaughan Williams conducted by Mitropolous (1945) in which he brings back the chimes of Big Ben at the very end of the work. That is not in any of the versions of the original score and gave me quite a jolt when I first heard it. Goodness knows what the composer would have thought about it!
« Last Edit: July 29, 2019, 09:40:58 PM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Online vandermolen

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #241 on: August 01, 2019, 11:32:27 AM »
Yes check out the "Journey to the Stars" because it has a very different ending to any suite I've heard or the film itself. Probably the most epic.  Also my favorite version of "pestilence" because the horns rise to the very high B natural which is handed off to the trumpets in other recordings I've heard.  Much prefer the intensity here.
Well, I listened to the John Mauceri recording of 'Things to Come' this evening and you are quite right Karim - it does include a reference to 'Machines' from 10:55 although the track listing doesn't mention it at all. I really enjoyed the version with the Big Ben chimes, choral contributions and added sound effects. Thanks very much for reminding me of this interesting and varied disc. So, 'Machines', therefore, only features in the recordings by Bliss himself, Gamba, Malcolm Arnold (not released on disc as far as I'm aware) and Mauceri.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline relm1

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #242 on: August 01, 2019, 03:17:48 PM »
Well, I listened to the John Mauceri recording of 'Things to Come' this evening and you are quite right Karim - it does include a reference to 'Machines' from 10:55 although the track listing doesn't mention it at all. I really enjoyed the version with the Big Ben chimes, choral contributions and added sound effects. Thanks very much for reminding me of this interesting and varied disc. So, 'Machines', therefore, only features in the recordings by Bliss himself, Gamba, Malcolm Arnold (not released on disc as far as I'm aware) and Mauceri.

So my point is each version of the suite I hear has added interesting material so we need a reconstruction of all the music.  Everything I've heard from these various suites has been very good.  I have no idea where the Mauceri ending came from, that's not in the film but is a very thrilling ending with blasting orchestra, chorus, and triumphant fanfares.

Online vandermolen

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #243 on: August 01, 2019, 10:15:25 PM »
So my point is each version of the suite I hear has added interesting material so we need a reconstruction of all the music.  Everything I've heard from these various suites has been very good.  I have no idea where the Mauceri ending came from, that's not in the film but is a very thrilling ending with blasting orchestra, chorus, and triumphant fanfares.
That's absolutely right. Christopher Palmer did a lot of great work on reconstructing music from films (Do you know Alwyn's 'Odd Man Out' - a truly symphonic rearrangement I think?) I still think that Bliss's own suite from 'Things to Come' is my favourite although I'm sure that I'll be playing the Mauceri CD often, not least because of the other interesting music on the CD and because, unlike Christopher Palmer' he does include the brief but ominous 'Machines'. Mauceri clearly adds some of his own material but that is not a problem for me. Bliss has been done no favours by the suggestion (repeated in the Penguin Guide to Compact Discs etc) that the most memorable thing he wrote was the March from Things to Come. I don't even think that it's the best part of the Suite and believe that he wrote much more memorable material throughout his career.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline relm1

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #244 on: August 02, 2019, 04:56:44 AM »
That's absolutely right. Christopher Palmer did a lot of great work on reconstructing music from films (Do you know Alwyn's 'Odd Man Out' - a truly symphonic rearrangement I think?) I still think that Bliss's own suite from 'Things to Come' is my favourite although I'm sure that I'll be playing the Mauceri CD often, not least because of the other interesting music on the CD and because, unlike Christopher Palmer' he does include the brief but ominous 'Machines'. Mauceri clearly adds some of his own material but that is not a problem for me. Bliss has been done no favours by the suggestion (repeated in the Penguin Guide to Compact Discs etc) that the most memorable thing he wrote was the March from Things to Come. I don't even think that it's the best part of the Suite and believe that he wrote much more memorable material throughout his career.

Yes totally agree that the march isn't the most interesting.  I definitely prefer the dramatic/epic moments more.  I haven't heard Alwyn's 'Odd Man Out' but have added it to my listening list.

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #245 on: August 02, 2019, 05:19:17 AM »
Yes totally agree that the march isn't the most interesting.  I definitely prefer the dramatic/epic moments more.  I haven't heard Alwyn's 'Odd Man Out' but have added it to my listening list.
Oh, you have to hear that - here is the Prelude if you'd like to sample it. In a way it reminds me of 'The Procession to Calvary' from Rozsa's score for 'Ben Hur':
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EwXCsS85OXY
« Last Edit: August 02, 2019, 05:20:54 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline relm1

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #246 on: August 02, 2019, 03:56:17 PM »
Oh, you have to hear that - here is the Prelude if you'd like to sample it. In a way it reminds me of 'The Procession to Calvary' from Rozsa's score for 'Ben Hur':
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EwXCsS85OXY

That was epic!  Should Christopher Palmer get his own thread here?  Would you consider him an arranger only or a distinct voice?

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #247 on: August 02, 2019, 04:15:23 PM »
What would be an epic and memorable work other than the A Colour Symphony that you could recommend? I'm not myself a big fan of him, but I've enjoyed some other works e.g. Cello concerto, the mildly gargantuan Piano Concerto in B flat and Morning Heroes, though with no much more memories for now.

Offline kyjo

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #248 on: August 02, 2019, 07:28:10 PM »
What would be an epic and memorable work other than the A Colour Symphony that you could recommend? I'm not myself a big fan of him, but I've enjoyed some other works e.g. Cello concerto, the mildly gargantuan Piano Concerto in B flat and Morning Heroes, though with no much more memories for now.

Overall, he's not one of my favorite British composers either - his music doesn't have much of a distinctive "personality" IMO, though it's still well-written and enjoyable. I'd definitely recommend his moving and uplifting (and, at some points, darkly disturbing) Meditations on a Theme of John Blow. The pastoral Oboe Quintet is very nice as well. I recently came to know and enjoy his epic, sometimes gawky (in a good way), and other times sweepingly romantic Piano Concerto. Peter Donohoe's recording on Naxos is excellent.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2019, 07:32:03 PM by kyjo »
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Online vandermolen

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #249 on: August 02, 2019, 11:54:10 PM »
That was epic!  Should Christopher Palmer get his own thread here?  Would you consider him an arranger only or a distinct voice?
Delighted you liked it. No Alwyn collection is complete without it!
Christopher Palmer, who died much too young, was a multi-talented arranger and musicologist. I think he composed as well. Without him many great film scores would not be known. His 'Henry V' reconstruction (Walton) is one of his finest achievements I think.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Online vandermolen

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #250 on: August 02, 2019, 11:58:29 PM »
What would be an epic and memorable work other than the A Colour Symphony that you could recommend? I'm not myself a big fan of him, but I've enjoyed some other works e.g. Cello concerto, the mildly gargantuan Piano Concerto in B flat and Morning Heroes, though with no much more memories for now.
The interesting thing about Bliss is that he is not one of my favourite composers either but I find myself often returning to his music! Memorable moments for me would include, off the top of my head, the 'Dance of Summer' from Adam Zero, the climax of the first movement of the Piano Concerto and the 'return of the cannon fire' and final section 'Dawn on the Somme' from Morning Heroes. Also I consider both the Miracle in the Gorbals and the eloquent Oboe Quintet to be memorable throughout and agree with Kyle's choices as well. Also, 'Hymn to Apollo' and 'Melee Fantasque' as well as 'Checkmate'.
« Last Edit: August 03, 2019, 12:00:48 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #251 on: August 03, 2019, 11:19:30 AM »
Kyle and Jeffrey, thank you for the kind suggestions. I'm surely listening to some of the works you mentioned later. Bliss is a bit of a blind spot for me.

Online vandermolen

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #252 on: January 04, 2020, 11:34:50 AM »
I wrote about the ceremonial work 'A Song of Welcome' on the WAYLT thread but as I find the orchestral opening of the last movement 'Soon it is dawn' quite magical I thought I'd post it here (Joan Sutherland's first recording):

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=SAcpYEVYbRk




« Last Edit: January 04, 2020, 11:42:00 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Online vandermolen

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #253 on: January 05, 2020, 09:05:26 AM »
Bliss is not a very fashionable composer and since his death in 1975 his music has gone into something of an eclipse - and yet, I often find myself returning to it.
Recently I've been enjoying this CD, especially the Meditations on John Blow's theme:
« Last Edit: January 05, 2020, 09:07:32 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #254 on: January 05, 2020, 12:57:55 PM »
Bliss is not a very fashionable composer and since his death in 1975 his music has gone into something of an eclipse - and yet, I often find myself returning to it.
Recently I've been enjoying this CD, especially the Meditations on John Blow's theme:


I've been dithering about this disc - as a performance where would you rank the "Meditations" and how about the couplings in their own right.... vintage Bliss?

Online vandermolen

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #255 on: January 06, 2020, 02:54:10 AM »
I've been dithering about this disc - as a performance where would you rank the "Meditations" and how about the couplings in their own right.... vintage Bliss?
I'm not that keen on either of the other two works but, in my opinion, the CD is worth getting for the very fine performance and recording of the 'Meditations on a Theme by John Blow' - the best version I have heard since Hugo Rignold's classic CBSO recording on Lyrita. I'm playing the CD now which confirms my view. It is perhaps a more reflective view of the work than some recordings but it is even more moving and beautifully recorded. Of course the Penguin Stereo Record Guide's reference to the work as 'aimiable but rambling' did the work no favours.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2020, 02:57:31 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Online vandermolen

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #256 on: January 08, 2020, 10:30:43 PM »
I've been dithering about this disc - as a performance where would you rank the "Meditations" and how about the couplings in their own right.... vintage Bliss?

Here's a very positive review of it RS:
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2020/Jan/Bliss_Mary_CHSA5242.htm
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline kyjo

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #257 on: May 26, 2020, 07:20:15 PM »
Bliss is not a very fashionable composer and since his death in 1975 his music has gone into something of an eclipse - and yet, I often find myself returning to it.
Recently I've been enjoying this CD, especially the Meditations on John Blow's theme:


Today I revisited the Meditations for the first time in a while in this magnificent new Chandos recording with Andrew Davis at the helm. What a wonderful and deeply moving work it is; I'd say it's Bliss' masterpiece. It is one of those works which is generally positive in outlook but has notable moments where shadows pass over the landscape, and to great effect. Moments of wonderful pastoral bliss (no pun intended ;)) transition into jagged, anxious, even disturbing passages. I especially loved the contrast between the magically idyllic In Green Pastures movement and the tense, creepy Interlude: Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death which directly follows it (there's an ingenious transition between the two movements as well). Bliss was a remarkable orchestrator and creator of uniquely memorable moods, and his powers are on full display in this work.

I've also discovered two gems in Bliss' chamber output recently, namely, the String Quartet no. 1 and the Viola Sonata, both of which have received excellent recordings on Naxos. The quartet is really satisfying and inventive, and the sonata is one of the finest works of its kind that I've encountered - a darkly passionate, tempestuous work which has a deep sense of humanity.

« Last Edit: May 27, 2020, 08:50:51 AM by kyjo »
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Online vandermolen

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #258 on: June 21, 2020, 01:32:54 AM »
Today I revisited the Meditations for the first time in a while in this magnificent new Chandos recording with Andrew Davis at the helm. What a wonderful and deeply moving work it is; I'd say it's Bliss' masterpiece. It is one of those works which is generally positive in outlook but has notable moments where shadows pass over the landscape, and to great effect. Moments of wonderful pastoral bliss (no pun intended ;)) transition into jagged, anxious, even disturbing passages. I especially loved the contrast between the magically idyllic In Green Pastures movement and the tense, creepy Interlude: Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death which directly follows it (there's an ingenious transition between the two movements as well). Bliss was a remarkable orchestrator and creator of uniquely memorable moods, and his powers are on full display in this work.

I've also discovered two gems in Bliss' chamber output recently, namely, the String Quartet no. 1 and the Viola Sonata, both of which have received excellent recordings on Naxos. The quartet is really satisfying and inventive, and the sonata is one of the finest works of its kind that I've encountered - a darkly passionate, tempestuous work which has a deep sense of humanity.


I must have missed this post Kyle. The Oboe Quintet is my favourite chamber work by Bliss and I share your view of 'Meditations on a Theme by John Blow' and liked your description of the work. I like the moment just before the end where a 'dark cloud' passes briefly across the Sun implying, I think that spiritual 'victory/enlightenment' (however you interpret that) is never final and we must remain vigilant (that's how I see it anyway!) Good as the Andrew Davis version is my favourite recording is under Hugo Rignold with the City of Birmingham SO on Lyrita.

Copied over from WAYLT thread:
New arrival.
Now playing: 'Things to Come' (best version of the Suite IMO)

This is a very nicely produced double CD set with very clear sound. I also like the way that the original LP sleeves are reproduced in the booklet. This set features the first CD release on Decca of 'Things to Come' and the SQ No.2 and the first Decca release of the original (Mono) version of the Violin Concerto.
My Father's Day present to myself  ;D:


"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Irons

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #259 on: June 21, 2020, 09:45:16 AM »
I don't know if already mentioned but I very much like the Bliss Cello Concerto. A work that struck an immediate chord in me. I like what Bliss said about his creation "there are no problems for the listener, only for the soloist". Only if more composers could be so accommodating. :)
You must have a very good opinion of yourself to write a symphony - John Ireland.