There are times when I feel that English music could use a lot fewer larks and a lot more ascending. This imaginative collection of landscape-inspired music, however, reaches beyond Vaughan Williams's overplayed violin rhapsody. to inveterate anglophiles about half of these works will be familiar; to anyone else they are a superb introduction to English pastoralism (not vicars but green fields and rocky coasts).
Here's the program:
Delius: On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring, Summer night on the river
Elgar: As torrents in summer
Finzi: Fall of the Leaf
Ireland: The Hills
Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending
Lyn Fletcher (violin)
Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1
The readings under Elder are vibrant and direct; you won't hear the special personal stamp of Beecham or Barbirolli, but that's not a major flaw. The recorded sound is leagues ahead of anything that either conductor ever received; excellent sonics have become a hallmark of the house recordings by the Halle under Elder. Finances are difficult in Manchester, and this orchestra is probably still struggling not to founder. They deserve to be celebrated, as this recording amply shows.