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Orchestra of the Swan: Not Now, Bernard & Other Stories
Composed by Bernard Hughes, John Ireland (1879-1962), Malcolm Arnold (1921-2006), and Judith Weir (1954-). Classical. CD. Naxos #ORC100115. Published by Naxos (NX.ORC100115).
Item Number: NX.ORC100115
Actor, broadcaster and bass-baritone Alexander Armstrong stars as narrator in this irresistible album of world premiere recordings, which revels in the primary colors of childhood memories. Not Now Bernard takes its title from the eponymous composition by Bernard Hughes (b.1974). Along with its companion piece, Isabel's Noisy Tummy, Armstrong also recounts the tale of Hughes' The Knight Who Took All Day, which challenges chivalric convention with its subversive story of female empowerment. Conductor Tom Hammond and members of the Orchestra of the Swan shape compelling interpretations enriched by Alexander Armstrong's gleeful narration. They also raise a riot of sound in Malcolm Arnold's Toy Symphony (1957), complete with quail cuckoo, guard's whistle and gloriously irritating toy trumpets. The album's mood darkens in John Ireland's haunting melodrama Annabel Lee, a spine-tingling setting of Edgar Allan Poe's final poem, presented here in Bernard Hughes' specially arranged version for narrator, piano, flute, clarinet and cello, before Armstrong breezes through the Latin taglines of Judith Weir's Thread! (1981), an early work inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry's cartoonish images.