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Robin Milford is one of those distinctive English composers who proliferated between the wars, but whose reputation suffered in the face of the avant garde establishment in vogue during the 1950s and ’60s. Milford composed a range of music, from short practical works for children or amateurs to large-scale works including oratorios, an opera and a symphony.
This delightful disc presents Milford’s music at its most quintessential and endearing. During the war Milford lost his six-year-old son to a road accident, a shattering personal catastrophe that blighted the remaining eighteen years of his life. Milford’s idiom deepened and matured, and his ability to distil a mood or atmosphere into surprisingly simplelooking textures is his most rewarding trait. The music on this disc ranges from the soaring intensity of the Elegiac Meditation for viola and string orchestra of 1946–7 (a meditation on the losses of six years of war, or perhaps Milford was thinking of his dead son Barnaby), to the spirited and easy-going Festival Suite, written in 1950 to mark the Festival of Britain the following year. Milford’s most famous work, Fishing by Moonlight, opens the disc, and is ravishingly performed by Guildhall Strings, with the composer’s grand-nephew Julian Milford at the piano.
Once again, Guildhall Strings perform unduly neglected British music with refinement and a rare sense of shared enjoyment.