Bliss: The Enchantress, Meditations on a Theme by John Blow & Mary of Magdala BBC Philharmonic Orchestra & Sir Andrew Davis
- Sir Arthur Bliss (1891 - 1975): The Enchantress, F. 157:
- 1The Enchantress, F. 157: No. 1, Bring Me the Laurel Leaves03:21
- 2The Enchantress, F. 157: No. 2, Oh Moon, Shine Fair05:09
- 3The Enchantress, F. 157: No. 3, Silent the Sea01:46
- 4The Enchantress, F. 157: No. 4, How I Saw Him in the Street03:57
- 5The Enchantress, F. 157: No. 5, And Now in the Fire I Fling You02:56
- Meditations on a Theme by John Blow, F. 118:
- 6Meditations on a Theme by John Blow, F. 118: Introduction. The Lord Is My Shepherd06:39
- 7Meditations on a Theme by John Blow, F. 118: No.1, He Leadeth Me Beside the Still Waters02:52
- 8Meditations on a Theme by John Blow, F. 118: No. 2, Thy Rod and Staff They Comfort Me02:47
- 9Meditations on a Theme by John Blow, F. 118: No. 3, The Lambs02:38
- 10Meditations on a Theme by John Blow, F. 118: No. 4, He Restoreth My Soul02:34
- 11Meditations on a Theme by John Blow, F. 118: No. 5, In Green Pastures04:33
- 12Meditations on a Theme by John Blow, F. 118: Interlude. Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death04:06
- 13Meditations on a Theme by John Blow, F. 118: Finale. In the House of the Lord06:00
- Mary of Magdala, F. 31:
- 14Mary of Magdala, F. 31: I. Ashen the Sky04:23
- 15Mary of Magdala, F. 31: II. At Last, at Last03:35
- 16Mary of Magdala, F. 31: III. Look There, Look There01:09
- 17Mary of Magdala, F. 31: IV. Why Trouble Ye Her?01:12
- 18Mary of Magdala, F. 31: V. The Proud Aegyptian Queen01:58
- 19Mary of Magdala, F. 31: VI. Surely This Was the Place01:57
- 20Mary of Magdala, F. 31: VII. But What Are Those Two Strangers02:40
- 21Mary of Magdala, F. 31: VIII. But Who Is That Yonder04:07
- 22Mary of Magdala, F. 31: IX. Mary, Mother Was the Pleasant Blower06:11
Info for Bliss: The Enchantress, Meditations on a Theme by John Blow & Mary of Magdala
Bliss composed The Enchantress in 1951, the year of his sixtieth birthday, for Kathleen Ferrier. The text is a free adaptation of the Second Idyll of Theocritus, made by Henry Reed, and well suited to Bliss’s love of classical Greek authors.
Meditations on a Theme by John Blow, from 1955, was written for the CBSO, the first in a number of commissions from the John Feeney Trust. Inspired by John Blow’s Coronation Anthems, the work is a set of variations on a Sinfonia from that collection, each variation reflecting the text of a verse from Psalm 23.
Described as a sacred cantata, Mary of Magdala was Bliss’s second Feeney Trust commission, composed during 1962 and 1963. For a libretto, Bliss turned to Christopher Hassall, his collaborator on three previous works, including The Beatitudes.
Bliss conducted the premiere at the Three Choirs Festival in 1963, and wrote in his programme note: ‘One of the loveliest stories in the New Testament is that in the 20th chapter of St John’s Gospel, telling of how Mary Magdalene, lingering at the sepulchre, was the first to see the risen Christ. She, supposing him to be the gardener.’
The BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus give of their best under their former chief conductor Sir Andrew Davis, and the contributions from the soloists, Dame Sarah Connolly and James Platt, are outstanding.
“…The album opens with a hair-raising performance of the dramatic scena The Enchantress… Dame Sarah Connolly brings her[Simaetha] to life with the combination of blazing sensuality and vengeful vehemence that have won her such acclaim as Charpentier’s Medea, Handel’s Agrippina and Britten’s Phaedra…But it’s the final piece here that was the real revelation for me – the 1963 cantata Mary of Magdala, scored for contralto, bass, choir and orchestra and depicting Mary’s encounter with the newly-risen Christ with an immediacy and tenderness that never tips over into sentimentality. Connolly takes centre-stage again, conveying the “fallen woman”’s raw abjection as well as her loyalty and eventual incredulous joy …” (Katherine Cooper)
“Admirers of the composer Arthur Bliss may find that the most attractive item on this new surround sound disc on the Chandos label is one of his finest pieces, the Meditations on a Theme by John Blow, appearing here in its first incarnation in the SACD medium. Sir Andrew Davis does full justice to the colourful, inventive score… Davis continues his championship of the lesser-known works of Bliss with this coupling of The Enchantress with Mary of Magdala. The always exemplary Dame Sarah Connolly and James Platt are the soloists, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.” (Barry Forshaw)
Dame Sarah Connolly, mezzo-soprano
James Platt, bass
BBC Symphony Orchestra
BBC Symphony Chorus
Sir Andrew Davis, conductor
Sir Andrew Davis
Maestro Davis is conductor laureate of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (having previously served as principal conductor), conductor laureate of the BBC Symphony Orchestra (having previously had the longest tenure as chief conductor since BBCSO founder Sir Adrian Boult) and former music director of Glyndebourne Festival Opera. Sir Andrew serves as artistic advisor to the Besançon International Music Festival and is president of the jury for that festival’s 52nd International Competition for Young Conductors.
In the 2011-2012 season Maestro Davis conducts Boris Godunov, Ariadne auf Naxos, and The Magic Flute at Lyric Opera of Chicago. His engagements elsewhere in 2011-12 include the Besançon Festival, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic, London’s Philharmonia Orchestra,the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera (Don Giovanni), BBC Symphony Orchestra, The Santa Fe Opera, Canadian Opera Company (Eine florentinische Tragödie and Gianni Schicchi), Santa Fe Opera (Arabella), the Bergen Festival (La damnation de Faust), and the opening of the Edinburgh Festival. In addition, Sir Andrew will spend several weeks recording for Chandos Records with various orchestras.
In the 2010-11 season Sir Andrew conducted The Mikado (new production), The Girl of the Golden West, and Lohengrin at Lyric Opera of Chicago. He was seen on the podium with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. Sir Andrew also returned to the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Proms in London and to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, where he led performances of his own new orchestration of Handel’s Messiah. Maestro Davis made return appearances with the Metropolitan Opera (Capriccio), the Canadian Opera Company (Ariadne auf Naxos), the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (Peter Grimes), and Glyndebourne Festival Opera (Rusalka).
With the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Maestro Davis has led concerts at the Proms and on tour to Hong Kong, Japan, the U.S., and Europe. He has conducted all of the world’s major orchestras, from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to the Berlin Philharmonic and the Royal Concertgebouw, as well as at opera houses and festivals throughout the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, and the Bayreuth Festival.
Maestro Davis has a massive discography on the Chandos, Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, Warner Classics International, Capriccio, EMI, and CBS labels, among others. Sir Andrew currently records exclusively for Chandos Records. His first Chandos recording, Elgar’s “Crown of India,” was released in 2010. His recordings of Holst’s “Beni Mora,” “Japanese Suite,” and “The Planets,” and of York Bowen’s Symphonies No. 1 and 2 with the BBC Philharmonic; and of Delius’s “Appalachia” and “Song of the High Hills” with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, were issued in the first half of 2011.
In 2008, Sir Andrew released Elgar’s Violin Concertos, featuring violinist James Ehnes and London’s Philharmonia Orchestra (Onyx Classics), which won Gramophone’s coveted “Best of Category – Concerto” Award. Recordings in 2007 included Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with violinist Min-Jyn Kim and the Philharmonia Orchestra (Sony); a solo recital of operatic favorites sung by soprano Nicole Cabell with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (Decca), which in 2008 won the Solti Prize from the French Académie du Disque Lyrique; and Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with pianist Yundi Li and the Philharmonia Orchestra (Deutsche Grammophon).
In 1992, Maestro Davis was created a Commander of the British Empire for his services to British music, and in 1999 he was made a Knight Bachelor in the New Year Honours List. In 1991, he received the Royal Philharmonic Society/Charles Heidsieck Music Award.
Born in 1944 in Hertfordshire, England, Maestro Davis studied at King’s College, Cambridge, where he was an organ scholar before taking up the baton. His diverse repertoire ranges from Baroque to contemporary, and his vast conducting credits span the symphonic and operatic and choral worlds. Sir Andrew is a great proponent of twentieth-century works including those by Janácek, Messiaen, Boulez, Elgar, Tippett, and Britten, in addition to the core symphonic and operatic composers’ works.
Maestro Davis and his wife, soprano Gianna Rolandi, reside in Chicago where she is the director of The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center at Lyric Opera of Chicago.