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Three English Ballets
“What a joy to welcome on CD, a major British ballet score (comparable in appeal to Walton's Façade with which, happily, it's coupled). Constant Lambert's Horoscope is a highly individual score that's somehow very English. It's played here with striking freshness and expansiveness.
Lloyd-Jones responds to Bliss's lyricism very warmly. What makes this disc particularly enticing is the inclusion of the two Façade suites, welcome away from the spoken poems.
This is music that in a witty performance can make you smile and even chuckle. So it is here, especially the 'Tango Pasodoble' with a delicious lilt for 'I do like to be beside the seaside' contrasting with its Offenbachian gusto, the 'Swiss Yodelling Song' with its droll Rossini quotation and refined mock-melancholy, and the irresistibly humorous 'Polka' that just manages not to be vulgar. All are ideally paced and the solo wind playing a delight. The recording is near perfect.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“The suite from Horoscope is Lambert at his very finest. David Lloyd-Jones is very sympathetic to its specifically English atmosphere.” Penguin Guide, 2011 edition
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“[the RSNO] respond with a commendable polish and ebullient swagger that excite admiration” Gramophone Magazine
“Bliss composed Checkmate at the behest of dancer and choreographer Ninette de Valois to mark the Vic-Wells Ballet's inaugural visit to Paris in June 1937. A keen chess player, Bliss devised the scenario himself, the original idea having germinated some 14 years before in a dinner conversation with the Russian ballerina Tamara Karsavina.
Lasting some 53 minutes, it's a mightily impressive achievement, scored with sumptuous skill and crammed full of first-rate, colourful invention, much of which will already be familiar from the six-movement concert suite.
Now comes a compelling account of the complete ballet from David Lloyd-Jones and the RSNO, who respond with commendable polish and ebullient swagger. Lloyd-Jones's characteristically lucid conception possesses just that crucial bit more dramatic tension, expressive scope and thrust – and how pliantly he moulds those ravishing melodic tendrils in 'Entry of the Black Queen' (where there's some particularly disarming wind playing). Some occasionally raucous brass sonorities aside, the engineering is enormously vivid, the slightly unflattering acoustic appropriately akin to that of the theatre-pit.
The Mêlée fantasque (written in 1921 in memory of the painter Claude Lovat Fraser) makes a delightful curtain-raiser, with Lloyd-Jones extracting just that bit more vitality from this by turns exuberant and touching dance-poem than the composer (always an accomplished interpreter of his own music). A real bargain.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“This is the only available version of the full ballet… almost all the music to the same high, full-blooded standard… The early Melée Fantasque is much more than a makeweight… Lloyd-Jones's tempos are faster than the composer's, but there's no lack of expansiveness in the elegiac slower episodes that punctuate the effervescent throng. Superbly alert and responsive playing from the RSNO make this disc a real bargain.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2005
BBC Music Magazine
Orchestral Choice - October 2005
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Masterpieces of British Ballet - Checkmate & The Rake's Progress
Dancers of the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet
Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet Orchestra, Barry Wordsworth
“Vintage De Valois creations for the Vic-Wells Ballet revived in the early 1980s, a good time for the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet. Filming is grainy but well-composed, and Barry Wordsworth relishes the power of the finer Bliss score.” BBC Music Magazine, December 2008 ****
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