Arthur Bliss, BLISS: Colour Symphony (A) / Adam Zero

James Jolly

By James Jolly

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
What does purple sound like?

I heard this symphony live for the first time in the summer of 2006 at the BBC Proms and it made as much impact as my first encounter with the work courtesy of this outstanding recording under David Lloyd-Jones. Sir Arthur Bliss was a much more radical composer than his rather patrician appearance, or indeed his later role as Master of the Queen's Music, would lead you to believe. His early allegiance to Stravinsky and the music of Schoenberg blended with his admiration for Elgar and the result is a language that is fluent and beautifully textured but with a clever use of dissonance where needed. The Colour Symphony, written at Elgar's suggestion, takes the heraldic symbolism of four colours (purple, red, blue and green) as its theme and creates a score of high drama and inspired creation: the final movement, "Green," is a stunning double fugue that builds up to a thrilling climax underpinned by six timpani hammering out the rhythm.