This is the seventh album from Kenneth Smith and Paul Rhodes on Divine Art, all listed in the booklet. I’ve missed its predecessors but my colleagues have written appreciatively of several of them. I’m pleased to make amends now and hope to catch up with some of the earlier releases. While putting this review together I’ve been listening with enjoyment to By the River in Spring , music by Hamilton Harty, Edward German, Michael Head, William Alwyn, Havelock Nelson, Thomas Dunhill, Kenneth Leighton and Stanford Robinson. (DDA25069).
These are not new recordings – the earliest were first issued by ASV – but their release on a two-for-one set is very welcome. Two items on ASV CDDCA739 are not included here. Delius’s la Calinda is apparently no great loss; though there would have been room to have included it, it came in for some criticism when the CD was released in 1991. I do wonder, however, why the arrangement of Elgar’s The Curious Doll was omitted – again, there would have been room, but we have a fine performance of the whole Nursery Suite , together with Wand of Youth and Dream Children from Bryden Thomson and Norman Del Mar on a budget-price Chandos CD.
John France has already reviewed the set in considerable detail, work by work, so I need only add that I very much enjoyed these performances, though I wouldn’t propose listening to the two hours straight through. Several of the pieces were receiving their recording premieres when the ASV CD was released and several still exist only on this album, the two works by Peter Lamb, for example, who wrote the notes for ASV, retained here for his own music. The notes are informative, though the booklet does contain a couple of mistakes which John France has noted: the opus number for the Arnold (121 not 21) and the date of birth of York Bowen (1884 not 1888), both easy slips to make but they should have been spotted.
I listened to the download from classicsonline.com, which came complete with pdf booklet – still, regrettably, not always a given. It’s in mp3 only, very good of its kind, but at £15.98 about the same price as you might expect to pay for the discs or slightly more. Classicsonline has been superseded by its new high-definition sibling, COL HD:LL, where you can find the set in lossless sound, equivalent to CD quality, for £15.99. The new HD:LL doesn’t allow me to give hyperlinks, as I have been wont to do, but each offering has a code: UPC: 809730122323 should help you find what you want.
You can, however, find a better deal from Qobuz: stream from there – or sample if you don’t have an account – and you’ll find a lossless download available, with booklet, for £11.99. There’s still too much variability of pricing of downloads: competition is fine, but not when the download costs as much as or more than – often much more than – the CD, even sometimes from the same dealer.