Reviews

GLCD 5203 – Great British Composers – Vol. 2

Various

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Memory Lane – Autum 2013

A couple of heavyweights from the world of classical music show their lighter side; Sir Edward Elgar with the delightful Chanson de Matin and Sir Granville Bantock with an atmospheric Persian Dance. But the composers more often found in this series, such as Eric Coates, Charles Williams and Frederick Curzon, more than hold their own. There is much impressive music on offer but I must pick out The Harvest Time Suite by Hayden Wood and Nocturen, a piece of remarkable depth by Stanford Robinson.
GH

Musicweb International – September 2013

This latest Guild volume adds yet more interesting music to the extensive forgotten repertoire regularly played up to the late 50s on the BBC Light programme in weekly broadcasts of ‘Workers’ Playtime’, ‘Housewives’ Choice’ or ‘Music While You Work’. It all has that very accessible quality with hum-along themes and bustling cheery orchestration. The BBC studio orchestras would have played many of these pieces possibly conducted by Eric Robinson (brother to Stanford) or by the composers themselves: Wally Stott, Eric Coates, Sidney Torch and Robert Farnon to mention just a few. In the forties, the large music publishers realised that there could be a lucrative market to record popular material and sell them to music libraries of broadcasters and documentary film makers on a royalty basis. Restaurants would also be a captive audience for this ‘muzak’ of the day. Music publishers Bosworth, Chappell and Boosey & Hawkes provided this ‘mood music’ and what we hear on this CD is, in the main, from their collections. Guild have retained an excellent reputation for the care taken with their exacting transfers from shellac records by sound engineer, Alan Bunting. This disc is no exception.
The earliest composers represented here are the Victorians, Elgar, Bantock, John Ansell and Albert Ketèlbey. Their pieces add elegant traditional charm to contrast with the catchy rhythms and brightly coloured scores of the later composers, Tomlinson, Curzon and Williams. All playing lengths are tailored to fit a three minute 10 inch or a four and a half minute 12 inch 78rpm record and composers would produce their scores with this constraint in mind. Much of Eric Coates has been largely neglected despite his quality of output and endearing tunes. It is good to see that he is represented here by the London Again Suite. Its three items are sprightly and contain good melody lines. Always able to deliver a good tune, Coates’s adept orchestration often put him on a level above his contemporaries.
Ansell’s well-structured eight minute overture with a Shenandoah-styled theme is vibrant and is continually forward-moving with the presentation of fresh ideas. Luckily, its boxy sound tends to disappear after the first two and a half minutes and then one can enjoy the track. In the Harvest Time suite, Haydn Wood, an admirer of Edward German, has clearly cultivated characteristics of German’s composition style from his Henry VIII, Torch Dance. The rounded orchestration we find here is of a quality appreciated by Wood’s admirers. Ketèlbey was a strong favourite between the World Wars and has appeared on other Golden Age CDs. Here he is represented by the imaginative In a Fairy Realm suite which has been well transferred from a good studio recording. There is nice diversity in the three descriptive pieces of the suite.
David Ades’ booklet notes in English cover the works with some interesting detail. We find, for instance, that in 1927 Reginald King, who worked under Sir Henry Wood as a pianist, took an orchestra into Swan & Edgar’s restaurant (Piccadilly Circus) where they played until 1939 and were only stopped by the War. King’s popularity was noticed by the BBC who before long employed him to broadcast regularly. Such is the effect of such music and being in the right place at the right time.
Raymond J Walker