Of Gods and Kings

Of Gods and Kings
Foden's Band 
Conductor: Michael Fowles

Doyen: DOY CD367  

   In ancient times the relationship between kings and their gods was an uneasy one and this recording features works by composers wh0o have taken inspiration from the myths and legends.

   Le Roi d'Ys (The Kings of Ys), is an opera in three acts by Edouard Lalo and tells the story of love and betrayal  on the legendary island of Ys. Frank Wright's masterly arrangement of the overture was first used as the test piece for the National Brass Band Championship contest, held at the Royal Albert Hall, London in 1959.

   The opening Andante is measured, but sadly for this reviewer, from the Allegro to the Presto - the heart of the piece - the performance does not always have the space for the essential expression, particularly in the famous euphonium solo.  Lalo's original percussion parts are included in this recording, but do not enhance the arrangement.

   Odin by Arthur Butterworth, subtitled From the Land of Fire and Ice, was commissioned by Black Dyke Mills Band and first performed by them at the International Trumpet Guild meeting in 1986. Following a revision by the composer the work was used as the test piece for the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain in 1989. It is the revised edition that appears on this disc.    

   The work depicts Odin as the lord of all the northlands and the god of the occult and of war during an age of superstition, pagan belief in magic and violent heroics. This is serious music that should be aired more often and in this premiere studio recording Foden's produce a quality performance that brings the story to life.

   A Kings Lie by Stan Nieuwenhuis was commissioned by Brassband Hombeek and dedicated to Michel Leveugle, a former conductor and chairman of the band.  The work is based on the story of Floire, the son of the Muslim King of Spain and Blancheflor, a Christian girl at the King's Court. The two fall in love but when the King discovers this he sends the girl away and tells his son the girl is dead - the lie in the music's title.Eventually the two are reunited and all is well. In this premiere studio recording Foden's deliver a splendid descriptive performance of the drama in this rhythmic and expressive music.

   Undoubtedly, Granville Bantock's most successful brass band work is the symphonic prelude Prometheus Unbound . Bantock, whose inspiration was a poem by Percy B. Shelley, composed the piece for the Crystal Palace Brass Band Championships of 1933, which was won by Fodens, this being the second of the first three wins of the famous double hat-trick. The poem tells the story of the mythological figure Prometheus,  who out with Zeus , the sky and weather god, who chained Prometheus to a mountain rock where each day he was attacked by an eagle, only to recover during the night. Many years later he was released by Heracles, the son of Zeus, hence the title Unbound. Here is a performance of authority also one that produce s some gorgeous chord sounds.  

   The stories of the life and times of King Arthur, his court and the fleeting Merlin are numerous and legendary. In 1937 the BBC commissioned Benjamin Britten to produce a series of scores for the radio, and King Arthur , sub-titled Scenes from a Radio Drama was the first.

   This suite of four distinct movements but played without a break, are ) Overture which includes a wild dance 2) Galahad and the Holy Grail incorporates  three lyrical items underscoring Galahad, Merlin's spell and a vision of the Holy Grail. 3) Lancelot and Arthur, a percussion  episode underscores the galloping theme of Lancelot's pursuit of Arthur and 4) The Death of Arthur, which dramatises the Final Battle and Arthur's death.

   There is a lovely blend of parts in the second movement, the third allows the percussion to shine whilst the fourth graphically depicts the action. In this third studio recording Fodens give an exceptional performance of Paul Hindmarsh's fine arrangement  of this descriptive music.

   Entry of the Gods into Valhalla come from Das Rheingold, the first of the four operas that constitute Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle. In scene four of the opera the gods enter their new home via a rainbow bridge that stretches to the gate of the castle. One god, Loge, the demigod of fire, does not enter for he knows the end of the gods is coming. Howard Snell's splendid arrangement has been enjoyed by many concert audiences, and Fodens excellent and enjoyable performance of the disc's final descriptive music brings this CD of substantial quality works to a rousing and triumphant close.

 Tracks:

1.  Le Roi d'Ys - Eduardo Lalo Arr: Frank Wright - 10.46

     Odin - Arthur Butterworth

 2. i) Allegro Molto  - 5.12

    ii) Andante Assai - 5.35

    iii) Presto - 4.51

5.  A King's Lie - Stan  Nieuwenhuis - 13.12

6. Prometheus Unbound - Granville Bantock - 9.21

    King Arthur - Paul Hindmarsh

7.  i) Overture - 3.02

    ii) Galahad and the Holy Grail - 3.25

   iii)  Lancelot and Arthur - 3.40

   iv) The Death of Arthur - 5.19

11. Entry of the Gods into Valhalla - Richard Wagner Arr: Howard Snell - 8.25  

 
Sydney Swancott

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