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: CLASSICAL: Forgotten son Austin revealed.

FREDERIC Austin is a forgotten son of Birkenhead. Born there in 1872, he became a well known local organist, and was a teacher at the Liverpool College of Music, where Thomas Beecham was one of his pupils. At the age of 28 he went on to become a fine baritone, with a national reputation both on concert platform and in the opera house. He was the soloist in the first English performance of Sea Drift of Delius and specialised on stage in Wagnerian roles, and the operas of Richard Strauss, and Debussy. In the 1920s he arranged the music for the Nigel Playfair production of The Beggars Opera, for which he is remembered today, and became music director of the predecessor of English National Opera.

He died in 1952. In his busy life he also had time to compose, and his Symphony was twice heard in London in 1913. The work then disappeared until a remarkable coincidence three years ago revealed that the manuscript was stored in the Percy Grainger Library in Melbourne. As a result the piece has now been recorded by the Royal Library Philharmonic Orchestra on their RLPO live house record label. It turns out to be quite a find, and very pleasant to listen to. The sleeve note writer draws parallels with Frank Bridge and Delius, but I would also feel inclined to describe his music as a sunnier Arnold Bax! The 30 minute four movement work is played without a break.

Also on the CD conductor Douglas Bostock includes a discarded finale from The Colour Symphony of Arthur Bliss, again receiving its first recording. Then there is Elgar's fine concert overture in the South inspired by a holiday in Portofino, and Hamish MacCunn's popular overture The Land of the Mountain and the Flood, with its TV theme tune. The accompanying booklet has a fine Liverpool skyline, and 15 pages of excellent programme notes, of special appeal to the sharp-eyed. With plenty of margin space, surely the typeface could have been clearer? Nevertheless the CD is a fine achievement.

Last July the microphones were at Philharmonic Hall for a concert by children's choirs, which included the first performance of Kaleidoscope conducted by Ronald Corp. It was sung by four Sefton primary school Choirs, Chester Music Society Junior Choir, and Scunthorpe Cooperative Junior Choir, who jointly commissioned it. Kaleidoscope consists of settings of 14 favourite poems by light music expert Corp accompanied by an excellent 13-piece instrumental group, and it turns out to be most enjoyable. The Scunthorpe and Chester Choirs each contribute three other songs, and Sefton primary school choirs have eight more songs between them. The concert must have been quite an occasion, and the excitement is well captured here. If you were present last July you will need no further recommendation, and Kaleidoscope gives the CD wider interest - vague memories of the 70-year-old Manchester schoolchildren. For information contact Valerie Williams (phone 01494 866389).
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 7, 2003
Words:489
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