Magazine article Gramophone

Treasures from Lyrita: Andrew Achenbach Welcomes Further Releases in the British Music Label's Series of Off-Air Recordings in the 'Itter Broadcast Collection'

Magazine article Gramophone

Treasures from Lyrita: Andrew Achenbach Welcomes Further Releases in the British Music Label's Series of Off-Air Recordings in the 'Itter Broadcast Collection'

Article excerpt

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Richard Itter, the founder of Lyrita Recorded Edition, died last year but his astounding legacy lives on in the shape of an exciting new initiative. Always a keen collector and taking full advantage of the healthy signal offered by a BBC radio transmitter close to his Buckinghamshire home, Itter built up an extensive collection of private tapes and acetate discs, all made using high-quality equipment and spanning a period of some 44 years. A deal has now been struck with the BBC and the Musicians' Union, so we can look forward to a host of significant performances of home-grown fare bearing the logo of 'Itter Broadcast Collection'.

Rob Cowan has already praised the opening release in last month's Replay, which featured an array of British string concertos. But aficionados should waste no time in hearing Mike Clements's judicious tape transfer and restoration of the 1964 Proms premiere of Arthur Bliss's powerfully compassionate (and grievously underrated) cantata The Beatitudes. The composer obtains hugely spirited results from his two excellent soloists, soprano Heather Harper and tenor Gerald English, the BBC SO and combined choirs, and the performance is altogether more convincing than the Dutton reissue of the acoustically cramped 1962 world premiere in Coventry's Belgrade Theatre (rehearsals for Britten's War Requiem in the city's newly consecrated cathedral having taken precedence, to Bliss's great chagrin). We also get a thrillingly intense rendering (from April 1957) from contralto Pamela Bowden with the BBC SO under Schwarz of the 1951 dramatic scena The Enchantress (originally a vehicle for the inimitable Kathleen Ferrier), while soprano Jennifer Vyvyan shines in a 1958 broadcast devoted to two delicious offerings from the pen of Bliss the enfant terrible, namely the 'witchery song' Madam Noy (1918) and 'medley of made-up words' Rout (1920).

G&S enthusiasts will feel thoroughly at home in Walter Leigh's hugely successful 1933 comic opera Jolly Roger, a nautical romp that boasts much charming and memorably melodic invention set to a wittily tongue-in-cheek libretto by Victor Clinton-Baddeley. Broadcast (in mono) on December 21, 1972, the present production has a most agreeable whiff of greasepaint about it and can boast a strong cast (including a mellifluous Vernon Midgley in the tide-role), as well as sprightly contributions from the Ambrosian Singers and BBC Concert Orchestra under Ashley Lawrence. …

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