Philip Lane was born in Cheltenham and has spent much
of his life there. After studying at Birmingham University (though he
is largely self-taught as both a composer and orchestrator) he returned
to Cheltenham and between 1975 and 1998 he was on the music staff at
the town’s Ladies College.
Among his many accomplishments he is a noted authority
on the eccentric English composer, Lord Berners and is also recognised
as something of an expert on the music of Richard Addinsell. He has
been in much demand to reconstruct the scores of the music for several
celebrated British films where the paper scores have been lost and this
work has led him into a good deal of original composition work for television
and the stage. All this information, and much more, is contained in
the liner notes by conductor Gavin Sutherland who writes about Philip
Lane as well as he conducts his music.
Now it’s confession time. I have lived for sixteen
years within a dozen miles of Cheltenham but, to my shame, I had never
heard any of Philip Lane’s music until this CD arrived. However, I am
glad to have had the opportunity to make the acquaintance of music which
is expertly written and very enjoyable.
This programme includes a variety of works and it is
launched in splendid style by the short, celebratory London Salute,
which was written to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the BBC. Appropriately
it contains a suitable whiff of pomp and circumstance.
Two of the works on the CD have titles which derive
from the word "divert" and this seems to me to be highly appropriate
and significant. I suspect Philip Lane regards entertainment as an important
factor in music, and quite rightly so. Thus the expertly constructed
Diversions on Paganini’s celebrated 24th Caprice are
there to be enjoyed and, with the help of an exuberant and affectionate
performance from Gavin Sutherland and his players, the listener does
indeed enjoy himself. So too, I suspect do the performers. This piece
was originally written for brass quintet for the 1989 Three Choirs Festival
but was orchestrated in 2000. I haven’t heard the original version but
I’m sure the greater range of colour available with orchestral forces
is a bonus.
By coincidence it was also in 2000 that Lane orchestrated
the other ‘diverting’ work in this programme, the Divertissement
for clarinet, harp and strings. Originally this had been written,
presumably with piano accompaniment, for the 1994 Cheltenham Festival.
Then, as now, it was performed by Verity Butler and she gives a winning
account of the piece. Cast in four short movements it gives the soloist
opportunities both for agility and for lyricism. It is a most attractive
work which apparently contains quite a number of self-quotations from
I could not detect if any of these quotations came
from the Cotswold Dances but apparently this work, which dates
from 1973, is the earliest orchestral work which Lane is still prepared
to acknowledge. There are five short dances, all most engaging, four
of which are inspired by and named after landmarks in the Cotswolds
area. The final dance is based on the traditional Gloucestershire Wassail
Song and it provides a boisterous conclusion to the set.
The Three Christmas Pictures were written at
various times between 1981 and 1990 and can be performed separately
(as they were originally) or as a set. They seem to me to be ideal fare
for Christmas concerts when one wants some variety from the usual diet
of carols. All three are delightful, the final Christmas Eve Waltz in
I confess I was a little less engaged by A Maritime
Overture (1982). It just seems to me to try a little too hard but
perhaps it will grow on me. The Three Nautical Miniatures, which
are based on well-known sea-faring songs, seem to me to be more successful.
This short work comprises two outer movements originally written for
brass band in 1980 and a central movement written for strings twenty
years later when, I assume, its two companions were reworked for strings.
The final work in the concert, Prestbury Park,
also originated as a brass band piece, in 1975. It presents a portrait
of Cheltenham Racecourse on race day. Anyone who has braved the crowds
there, particularly on Gold Cup day will recognise the hustle and bustle
of large numbers of people out for a good time.
Marco Polo have done Philip Lane proud. This is a most
enjoyable collection of high quality lighter music recorded in good,
bright sound. It is played with brio and expertise by the Royal Ballet
Sinfonia and Gavin Sutherland conveys his enthusiasm for this music
just as effectively with his baton as he does with his pen.
and Hubert Culot adds
I have been waiting for this CD for many years indeed;
for although it has been recorded from time to time, Philip Lane’s music
had been rather overlooked for too long. Indeed, Lane devoted much time
and talent in preparing performing editions of other composers’ music,
e.g. film scores by Addinsell, Alwyn, Arnold and Auric. So, this disc
entirely devoted to his music was, to my mind, long overdue.
The present selection offers an enjoyable survey of
Philip Lane’s colourful, tuneful and superbly crafted music, rather
‘light classic’ than ‘light music’, for such is the quality of the works.
London Salute, composed for the sixtieth
anniversary of the B.B.C., is full of Waltonian swagger and appropriately
festive. The jolly and very entertaining Diversions on a Theme
of Paganini (guess which?) sounds more as improvisations
on bits and parts of Paganini’s theme than as fully developed variations,
such as in Blacher’s celebrated Paganini Variationen.
The music however is full of humour and often surprises by some unexpected
twists, e.g. in the first variation in which the jazzy, rather tongue-in-cheek
variation is accompanied by an undulating string phrase reminiscent
of Smetana’s Vltava. Diversions were originally
composed for brass quintet and orchestrated in 2000. The Cotswold
Dances (1973) are more in the nature of gently nostalgic vignettes,
though the beautiful Cleeve Idyll really is a small-scale tone-poem,
than of real dance movements. The last movement Wassail Song
is a colourful, unidiomatic arrangement of the well-known carol. (Incidentally
this is a different work from the Suite of Cotswold Folkdances
of 1978, available on ASV WHL 2126.) The Three Christmas Pieces
were written in the 1980s and may be performed separately or as a set,
as here: the delightful Sleighbell Serenade was written in 1981
whereas the Starlight Lullaby and the beautifully nostalgic Christmas
Eve Waltz date from 1989 and 1990 respectively.
A Maritime Overture is the longest single
item here. It evokes various aspects of the sea, "from the gentle
lapping of waves at the start to the storms and battles later on".
The Three Nautical Miniatures, originally
written for brass band, were scored for strings while the central slow
movement The Spanish Ladies was added in 2000. The movements
are based on sea songs, and the concluding Portsmouth cleverly
and brilliantly juxtaposes that fine tune (also used in the trio section
of Vaughan Williams’ march Sea Songs) with the celebrated
Hornpipe (of Sir Henry Wood’s fame).
Divertissement, originally written for
clarinet and piano for the present soloist, was orchestrated in 2000
for harp and strings. This short, delightful work often recalls Malcolm
Arnold’s wonderful Clarinet Sonatina.
This enjoyable release ends with another entertaining
romp Prestbury Park (i.e. Cheltenham racecourse); and
"if the subject is not immediately obvious, it should be by the
last page of the score".
Everyone here seems to enjoy him- or herself enormously,
and so do we. Excellent performances of these entertaining, attractive
pieces; and this most welcome release is a pure delight from first to