The title of this disc might make you think immediately of vast
scenic vistas with mountains, forests and awesome sunsets. There’s
an element of that in the music, but booklet writer David Ades
is quick to broaden the scope of the disc to take in other scenic
scales, such as “a wild-flower meadow in the morning mist” (?!).
The titles of much of the music here are certainly grand (Sequoia,
Atlantic Crossing, Open Skies), but nothing on this disc really
captured my imagination as the title suggests. Instead it’s a
collection of rather forgettable trivialities, which has its attractions,
but doesn’t really make for repeated listening.
Tracks such as Sequoia, and The Tall
Ships are good at evoking mood. The latter is particularly
effective for the feel of a seascape, and it feels like it could
have been lifted out of a film of the time (it wasn’t). Table
Bay has a nice feel to it. But is this really the Scenic
Grandeur the title promises us? On the whole the gentler music
is more successful. Whispering Pines has an attractive
line for the woodwind (at last a break from the slushy violins!)
and Scenic Grandeur (track 3) has a nice kick-back-and-relax
feel to it. Similarly, Evening Mist and Still Waters
are gently evocative in an entirely predictable way. Some of
the titles, however (and, I’m afraid, the music that goes with
them), just sound a bit naff: Quiet Countryside anyone?
The longest track on this disc, Arizona Sketches is probably
the most successful because it’s the most varied, with sound-pictures
ranging from a music-box to the vast sweep of the Grand Canyon.
I suppose my fundamental problem with this disc
is the lack of variety. Yes, the simple aspects of tone and
speed vary from track to track, but nearly all of these tracks
feature a simple, steady pulse, while the main theme appears
in gushing, effulgent tone on the first violins. It then recedes
into the background and is repeated by the lower strings while
ornamented by the wind. It’s when the instrumentation changes
slightly (and that doesn’t happen often) that you really notice
a track. After a while the general feel gets a bit wearing and
you long for something a bit different.
All of this aside,
if you like this style of music then you’ll enjoy this disc.
To a Light Music Philistine like me, it’s probably better to
listen to the tracks with long intervals in between. If you
do that then you’ll probably get more from this disc. Just don’t
expect the “Sweep” that the title promises you.