Author Topic: Sir Arthur Bliss  (Read 70301 times)

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Offline vandermolen

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #280 on: March 15, 2021, 05:38:28 AM »
Lately I've been blown away by Bliss' Music for Strings (1935), specifically the recording of it found in this stupendous new Chandos album:



Bliss did this work no favors by giving it such a generic title. It's a work so full of life and vigor that grabs your attention right from the beginning and never lets go. And, goodness, do the Sinfonia of London under John Wilson play it to the hilt! They must be one of my current favorite orchestra/conductor combos along with Pittsburgh/Honeck and Bergen/Litton. The entire album is a must-hear for those interested in this repertoire. I hope they go on to record a sequel - I'd love to hear them in Tippett's roughly contemporary Concerto for Double String Orchestra, for instance.
Yes, you're right about the title Kyle.
"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 #281 on: March 15, 2021, 07:16:41 AM »
Yes, you're right about the title Kyle.

When Vernon Handley conducted a birthday concert in Liverpool he got to choose the programme.  It included Bax Symphony 6 for sure and RVW Tudor Portraits (I think?). The third piece was the Bliss Music for Strings.  Its a really tricky piece to play and far from familiar - a combination that will always work against a work becoming fully appreciated.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #282 on: March 15, 2021, 07:52:34 AM »
When Vernon Handley conducted a birthday concert in Liverpool he got to choose the programme.  It included Bax Symphony 6 for sure and RVW Tudor Portraits (I think?). The third piece was the Bliss Music for Strings.  Its a really tricky piece to play and far from familiar - a combination that will always work against a work becoming fully appreciated.
What a great programme!
"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 vandermolen

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #283 on: June 09, 2021, 10:52:06 PM »
When Vernon Handley conducted a birthday concert in Liverpool he got to choose the programme.  It included Bax Symphony 6 for sure and RVW Tudor Portraits (I think?). The third piece was the Bliss Music for Strings.  Its a really tricky piece to play and far from familiar - a combination that will always work against a work becoming fully appreciated.
I've been listening to this marvellous CD with much pleasure. It features (IMO) the best performance of the 'Meditations on a Theme by John Blow' (written for the CBSO in 1955) and a wonderful 'Music for Strings'. The old Penguin CD Guide described the Blow work, condescendingly, as 'amiable but rambling' although I think that it is one of Bliss's greatest works and very moving in places. The old Lyrita LP was a great classical discovery in my youth:

« Last Edit: June 09, 2021, 10:57:25 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).

Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #284 on: June 10, 2021, 12:23:33 AM »
I've been listening to this marvellous CD with much pleasure. It features (IMO) the best performance of the 'Meditations on a Theme by John Blow' (written for the CBSO in 1955) and a wonderful 'Music for Strings'. The old Penguin CD Guide described the Blow work, condescendingly, as 'amiable but rambling' although I think that it is one of Bliss's greatest works and very moving in places. The old Lyrita LP was a great classical discovery in my youth:



If ever a work was dammed by faint praise that is it.  I agree the Meditations are a superb work - but we've said this here before - I think that Bliss is generally underappreciated/respected.  I enjoy whole swathes of his music - not sure I can think of a single piece I dislike actually.  Even his fairly un-operatic opera "The Olympians" has some wonderful music in it.....

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #285 on: June 10, 2021, 09:21:34 AM »
If ever a work was dammed by faint praise that is it.  I agree the Meditations are a superb work - but we've said this here before - I think that Bliss is generally underappreciated/respected.  I enjoy whole swathes of his music - not sure I can think of a single piece I dislike actually.  Even his fairly un-operatic opera "The Olympians" has some wonderful music in it.....
Still, it's nice to meet someone here who appreciates Bliss as well. 'Damned with faint praise' just about hits the nail on the head. Remember the oft-repeated suggestion that the most memorable piece that Bliss wrote was the 'March' from 'Things to Come' - what a load of rubbish! I don't even find the March the most memorable piece in 'Things to Come'!
"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 SonicMan46

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #286 on: August 04, 2021, 11:34:29 AM »
Well, I'm still reading the British Music book (nearly 500 pages, bottom row left) and about two-thirds through, just finishing the section on Arthur Bliss - I've gone through much of this thread and my really modest collection, i.e. just the top 4 CDs below - seems to be some 'mixed' feelings on some of his works, esp. A Colour Symphony, which I listened to yesterday and liked.  In fact, enjoyed nearly all of the works in my collection and decided to order two additional discs (bottom row).  Thanks for all of the useful and sometimes conflicting comments on Bliss.  Dave :)



   

Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #287 on: August 04, 2021, 12:48:51 PM »
Well, I'm still reading the British Music book (nearly 500 pages, bottom row left) and about two-thirds through, just finishing the section on Arthur Bliss - I've gone through much of this thread and my really modest collection, i.e. just the top 4 CDs below - seems to be some 'mixed' feelings on some of his works, esp. A Colour Symphony, which I listened to yesterday and liked.  In fact, enjoyed nearly all of the works in my collection and decided to order two additional discs (bottom row).  Thanks for all of the useful and sometimes conflicting comments on Bliss.  Dave :)



   

I love the Colour Symphony.  The Hickox is good but not my favourite version.  For the violin concerto Campoli must be heard.  he was the dedicatee and also helped Bliss with the violin writing.  Campoli's sound is much more at the heart of this concerto than Mordkovitch although she is a very fine player.  The Naxos Cello conc disc is probably the weakest of the Naxos series - the Music for Strings is too hard for a Naxos-type read-record session.  Other discs on Naxos are very good - I love the complete Checkmate and Adam Zero Discs.  Miracle in the Gorbals you must hear Berglund.  Jeffrey's favourite is the Ringold/CBSO/Lyrita Meditations and that is a terrific disc.  Then there is Morning Heroes which is one of my all-time favourite - Groves in Liverpool is a 1st love and hard to beat.  Lastly - the film scores and of course Things to Come.  I always say Bliss is one of the most underated British composers - enjoy!

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #288 on: August 04, 2021, 09:47:06 PM »
Well, I'm still reading the British Music book (nearly 500 pages, bottom row left) and about two-thirds through, just finishing the section on Arthur Bliss - I've gone through much of this thread and my really modest collection, i.e. just the top 4 CDs below - seems to be some 'mixed' feelings on some of his works, esp. A Colour Symphony, which I listened to yesterday and liked.  In fact, enjoyed nearly all of the works in my collection and decided to order two additional discs (bottom row).  Thanks for all of the useful and sometimes conflicting comments on Bliss.  Dave :)



   
The Oboe Quintet is marvellous - his best chamber work IMO. The Naxos piano concertos CD is similarly terrific with the grand Piano Concerto uniquely AFAIK coupled with the most enjoyable Concerto for Two Pianos - so, great choices Dave!

I'd also recommend the lovely Meditations on a Theme by John Blow, Miracle in the Gorbals, Hymn to Apollo, Checkmate and Morning Heroes (Groves version).

Very much agree with RS's comments on Bliss.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2021, 09:54:13 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).

Offline SonicMan46

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #289 on: August 05, 2021, 07:52:30 AM »
I love the Colour Symphony.  The Hickox is good but not my favourite version.  For the violin concerto Campoli must be heard.  he was the dedicatee and also helped Bliss with the violin writing.  Campoli's sound is much more at the heart of this concerto than Mordkovitch although she is a very fine player.  The Naxos Cello conc disc is probably the weakest of the Naxos series - the Music for Strings is too hard for a Naxos-type read-record session.  Other discs on Naxos are very good - I love the complete Checkmate and Adam Zero Discs.  Miracle in the Gorbals you must hear Berglund.  Jeffrey's favourite is the Ringold/CBSO/Lyrita Meditations and that is a terrific disc.  Then there is Morning Heroes which is one of my all-time favourite - Groves in Liverpool is a 1st love and hard to beat.  Lastly - the film scores and of course Things to Come.  I always say Bliss is one of the most underated British composers - enjoy!

Thanks RS for your comments - appears that I should look around for other versions of some of the pieces in my collection, such as the Colour Symphony - I'll check on Spotify to see if other recommendations mentioned here are available for a listen; also have been looking at some reviews (attached) - the comments are mixed, especially regarding the symphony, however, Tim Hugh and Lydia Mordkovitch received some good to excellent comments.  Dave :)

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #290 on: August 05, 2021, 08:42:38 AM »
Thanks RS for your comments - appears that I should look around for other versions of some of the pieces in my collection, such as the Colour Symphony - I'll check on Spotify to see if other recommendations mentioned here are available for a listen; also have been looking at some reviews (attached) - the comments are mixed, especially regarding the symphony, however, Tim Hugh and Lydia Mordkovitch received some good to excellent comments.  Dave :)
FWIW Groves' recording of A Colour Symphony is my favourite and I also think very highly of Bliss's own recording.

PS I just noticed that the Bliss EMI/Warner boxed set has been reduced from £29 to £12 on Amazon UK - a very good bargain.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2021, 08:48:14 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 #291 on: August 05, 2021, 10:21:17 PM »
FWIW Groves' recording of A Colour Symphony is my favourite and I also think very highly of Bliss's own recording.

PS I just noticed that the Bliss EMI/Warner boxed set has been reduced from £29 to £12 on Amazon UK - a very good bargain.

+1 for Groves - a great performance but also recorded in wonderful vintage EMI analogue sound.  Grab that Warner set while its still so cheap - wonderful performances all....

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #292 on: August 06, 2021, 12:39:15 AM »
+1 for Groves - a great performance but also recorded in wonderful vintage EMI analogue sound.  Grab that Warner set while its still so cheap - wonderful performances all....
I agree.
The odd thing about the set is that you get two performances of 'Music for Strings' and none at all of Meditations on a Theme by John Blow and Morning Heroes, although these are arguably Bliss's greatest works and both have been recorded by EMI. Still, the set does include the first CD release AFAIK of the Melos Ensemble's unrivalled performance of the Oboe Quintet.
I also bought this EP today. I still think that it's the best performance of the 'Things to Come Suite' and I couldn't resist the nostalgia trip of the record cover. Apparently it was the first film score to have an independent life away from the film.
« Last Edit: August 06, 2021, 12:43:06 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 Irons

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #293 on: August 06, 2021, 06:47:25 AM »
I agree.
The odd thing about the set is that you get two performances of 'Music for Strings' and none at all of Meditations on a Theme by John Blow and Morning Heroes, although these are arguably Bliss's greatest works and both have been recorded by EMI. Still, the set does include the first CD release AFAIK of the Melos Ensemble's unrivalled performance of the Oboe Quintet.
I also bought this EP today. I still think that it's the best performance of the 'Things to Come Suite' and I couldn't resist the nostalgia trip of the record cover. Apparently it was the first film score to have an independent life away from the film.

Blimey Jeffrey that is a blast from the past! The last EP I bought was circa 1964 (I still have it) - a misspent youth!
You must have a very good opinion of yourself to write a symphony - John Ireland.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #294 on: August 06, 2021, 09:59:03 AM »
Blimey Jeffrey that is a blast from the past! The last EP I bought was circa 1964 (I still have it) - a misspent youth!
OT
I once owned this Lol - probably worth a fortune now:
"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 #295 on: August 06, 2021, 11:07:54 PM »
You must have a very good opinion of yourself to write a symphony - John Ireland.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #296 on: August 06, 2021, 11:29:25 PM »
Not to be sniffed at, Jeffrey.

https://www.popsike.com/php/quicksearch.php?searchtext=Beatles+magical+&sortord=

Interesting Lol. One of many records (Jimi Hendrix complete LPs boxed set) which I lent to people and never got back  :(
"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 vandermolen

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #297 on: August 08, 2021, 06:06:17 AM »
I've been playing this double album today. Bliss was a fine conductor of his own music and some of these performances are arguably definitive, albeit often in mono, including A Colour Symphony, the Violin Concerto, Introduction and Allegro and 'Things to Come' (in stereo).
I can't think of a better introduction to Bliss:
"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 #298 on: August 29, 2021, 04:37:31 AM »
How do you like Rumon Gamba's recording of Things to Come?  I think this is the most complete modern recording at 32 minutes.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Sir Arthur Bliss
« Reply #299 on: August 29, 2021, 05:02:51 AM »
How do you like Rumon Gamba's recording of Things to Come?  I think this is the most complete modern recording at 32 minutes.

I greatly enjoyed it, although it's a while since I heard it. You're right about it being the most complete version of TTC. It includes 'Machines' but, as far as I recall, it is not played with the same urgency as in Bliss's own recording of the Suite from TTC, which remains my favourite version. As a whole, the Chandos CD is excellent. How about you?
"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).