Sir Arthur Bliss – Checkmate, Melee Fantasque Naxos 8.557641
Royal Scottish National Orchestra, David Lloyd-Jones
Although Bliss considered Melee Fantasque to be his first attempt at a ballet score. It seems more like a tone poem to me. It is dedicated to the memory of Claude Lovat Fraser, artist and theatre designer with whom Bliss had collaborated on productions of Shakespeare and it is intended to convey the movement in some of Lovat Fraser’s colourful paintings. The music is recognisably in the English pastoral tradition of the early twentieth century and very interestingly arranged too.
Checkmate, a ballet in One Scene with a Prologue is far more rambling and possibly does not fare so well as a piece of stand alone music in the same way as Mellee Fantasque. One can imagine it working well as a stage production – the sounds are very beautiful and flow well but for me the work does not excite the ears to any great degree.