Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

Collection: British Light Music Discoveries.
Music by Sir Malcolm Arnold, Philip Lane, William Blezard, Eric Fenby, Raymond Warren, Adrian Cruft, Anthony Hedges, Paul Lewis and Arthur Butterworth
Royal Ballet Sinfonia conducted by Gavin Sutherland
ASV CD WHL 2126 [74:08]

Discoveries is the operative word here, for this is an engaging collection of very little known, accessible and melodic little gems from composers who in the main have strong links with films and television.

Sir Malcolm Arnold's contribution to the movies is well known. His Little Suite, which opens the concert, begins with a Prelude that wittily lampoons Elgarian/Waltonian ceremonial music. A hesitant, plaintive Siciliano follows, rather Ravel-like that becomes something of a lullaby with strains of the nursery tune, 'Rock-a-bye Baby'. The suite ends raucously with a Rondo that seems to visit London's Cockney East End.

William Blezard (b. 1921) worked at the Rank studios at Denham on films like Noel Coward's The Astonished Heart but he is best known as accompanist to Joyce Grenfell and Marlene Dietrich, Max Wall and Honor Blackman. His lovely composition, The River is a real find. It dates from 1969 and was written following a visit to Australia. It pictures a couple meeting by a gently running stream that pervades virtually every bar of the score but how magically Blezard uses his orchestral palette. The couple seem to meet tentatively, the orchestral colours muted, with material mostly in the low woodwinds. Then passion overwhelms them, the instrumental colours lighten while the music intensifies, the waters seeming more tumultuous. The work ends serenely on harp and violins

Adrian Cruft's (1921-87) Traditional Hornpipe Suite originally formed an accompaniment to a mime play, The Seafarers, which was presented by the Scottish Children's Theatre and received a Royal Command performance at Balmoral in 1957.

The suite consists of six sparkling movements with the hornpipes in various guises emulating English and Scottish folk music.

Eric Fenby is best known as Delius's amanuensis but he also wrote the music for Alfred Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn that starred Charles Laughton. Rossini on Ilkla Moor, is, as the name implies, a very clever and amusing pastiche in the style of Rossini, as though the Italian composer might have composed the famous Yorkshire folk tune.

Raymond Warren's (b. 1928) Wexford Bells is a most appealing pastiche with much humour. It is scored for a smallish orchestra; the size of what was then the BBC Northern Ireland Light Orchestra for which it was commissioned. The opening 'Shepherd's Dance' is charming with high woodwinds playful over persistent snare drum; there is a Handelian elegance too. This movement together with the plaintive lullaby that follows is based on material from a 17th century Dublin lute book. 'Christmas Jig' is a joyful celebration with many familiar Irish cadences present; and the fourth movement 'Wexford Bells' with its chiming rhythms has celebratory tubular bell figures and laughing, chattering woodwinds.

Arthur Butterworth's (b. 1923) The Path Across the Moors is vividly evocative of hikers plodding up steep, stony slopes (with 'Mrs Ramsbottom' puffing and panting in the rear?) There are also intimations of bleating sheep, thunder claps and winds. But all seems to be worth the glorious view from the peak. The work ends quietly as the walkers fade into the distance leaving the landscape empty and still.

Anthony Hedges' (b.1931) An Ayrshire Serenade is a very vibrant and colourfully kaleidoscopic invention that takes the music on a longish journey, through many styles from its Scottish roots. Paul Lewis's (b. 1943) English Overture is another puckish arrangement and assembly of well-known West Country folk tunes like 'Uncle Tom Cobley'

The concert concludes with a work by Philip Lane well known to visitors of this site as a film score reconstructionist and producer etc. (He has produced this album). Philip's beautifully harmonised and orchestrated Suite of Cotswold Dances opens with the 'Wheatley Processional' full of fun and joie de vivre. 'Constant Billy' is a lovely fragrant romance, full of nostalgic charm. 'Brighton Camp' is another charmer, nicely whimsical,

'Jockie to the Fair' is more boozy and rumbustious. 'Ladies of Pleasure' is all dreamy romantic pastels and the concluding 'Princess Royal' is a merry rustic dance.

The Royal Ballet Orchestra clearly enjoy themselves making these light music discoveries and the sound is excellently engineered.



Ian Lace


Ian Lace

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