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<<  -- 3 --  Rex Harley    SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE


The three mantras are 'Of Action and Vision of Terrestrial Avataras'; 'Of Bliss and Vision of Celestial Avataras' [listen -- track 2, 8:17-9:21]; and 'Of Will and Vision of Cosmic Avataras'. They form a triptych, in which the shorter, outer movements are full of movement, drama and noise, while the longer, central mantra -- marked beatamente -- is a movement of quite ethereal beauty: The City of Birmingham Youth Chorus sound almost as if they belonged to another world. Unlike Lyra Celtica, even at nearly fifteen minutes, not a note is wasted. Nothing is de trop.

Of the outer movements, the first is not without moments of great melodic beauty either. From the first notes of Mantra 1 we are swept into a glorious dance of shifting rhythms, soaring melodic lines and orchestral sounds that positively scintillate. At one point, about half-way through, there is suddenly a counter-rhythm which really does feel ahead of its time, reminding me of passages in Steve Reich's Different Trains.

In Mantra 3 [listen -- track 3, 5:09-6:51] the dance, focused on the string section, has become savage. Twice it builds, only to be temporarily restrained by quieter passages based cleverly, on brass, woodwind and percussion. Then, after a long pause, all the orchestral forces join in a polyrhythmic maelstrom of sound; tamtams have never sounded more thrilling. And abruptly it's all over. At which point, if you're me, you go back to the beginning and listen to it all again. It really is that good.

So what am I moaning about? Only the, as I see it, misplaced tendency to talk up the lesser works in order to turn Foulds into a 'neglected genius' figure, which I feel detracts from the genuine, and genuinely remarkable, achievement of the Three Mantras. Truth to tell, the disc is worth the money for the Mantras alone. And maybe you'll enjoy the other works too, especially if you regard them as a bonus.

Copyright © 11 January 2005 Rex Harley, Cardiff UK


John Foulds

2564 61525-2 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 78'13" 2004 Warner Classics

Susan Bickley, mezzo-soprano; Daniel Hope, violin; City of Birmingham Youth Chorus; City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; Sakari Oramo, conductor

John Foulds (1880-1939): Three Mantras from Avatara Op 61b (Of Action and Vision of Terrestrial Avataras; Of Bliss and Vision of Celestial Avataras; Of Will and Vision of Cosmic Avataras); Lyra Celtica - Concerto for Voice and Orchestra Op 50 (world première recording); Apotheosis (Elegy) (world première recording) (Music Poem No 4 for violin and orchestra Op 18 'Dedicated to the memory of Joseph Joachim'); Mirage (Music-Poem No 5 for orchestra Op 20)


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