> COATES Eric: Calling all workers 8110182[JW]: Classical Reviews- April2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Eric COATES (1886-1957)
Calling all workers
Springtime – Suite
From Meadow to Mayfair – suite
With a song in my heart – Symphonic Rhapsody
London Again – suite
By the Tamarisk
The Three Bears – a Phantasy

With variously
Symphony Orchestra
Light Symphony Orchestra
Court Symphony Orchestra
New Symphony Orchestra
Eric Coates, conductor
Recorded between 1930 – 1940
NAXOS HISTORICAL 8.110182 [62.20]


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An exact contemporary of Albert Sammons – they even died in the same year, four months apart – Eric Coates began his professional life, as had that illustrious violinist, as a chamber and orchestral player of repute. He was a student of Lionel Tertis at the Royal Academy of Music and a second study composition pupil of Frederick Corder before joining the Hambourg String Quartet for a South African tour. He had the good fortune to be taken on the infamous Beecham Symphony Orchestra British tour in 1910 – Sammons was the leader, orchestra members regularly uncoupled railway carriages and threw chandelier lights from great heights in expensive hotels and Beecham progressively cut Elgar’s First Symphony until it resembled more an amputation than a composition. Coates remembered the time as one of the most scintillating experiences of his life. His later service in Wood’s Queen’s Hall Orchestra was a little more staid.

He began composing early and the recordings documented on this disc, if neither as well known or accomplished as his more famous works, are nevertheless brimful with verve, imagination and directness. The 1940 Calling All Workers is the most well established piece, superbly recorded and conducted – it’s an 'object listen' to hear Coates’ use of the bass line here. As with most composer-conductors he is straight-forward, fleet, unsentimental and supremely accomplished in his own music – and this is repertory that has seen more than its share of magnificent performers; Charles Groves, Stanford Robinson, Reginald Kilbey and Adrian Boult amongst many. Springtime was recorded in 1937 hot off the press. Completed that year, first performed by the BBC – staunch advocates of Coates’ music – he doesn’t refer to it in his autobiography, a striking omission, though the reason may be to do with its backward looking vein of turn of the century nostalgia; it certainly seems unusually retrogressive stylistically for 1937 and quite probably it was a bottom drawer triptych revival – the second movement Romance especially so. From Meadow to Mayfair represents a little watershed in Coates’ compositional career. Composed between 1930-31 it includes the little rusticisms that were soon to be subsumed into his more cosmopolitan style; if there was ever a crux in the town and country elements in his imaginative writing this was the moment – the pastoral giving way to the march. In his memoirs Coates called the work a kind of farewell to his native Nottinghamshire and it was a kind of envoi in his music. Although he admired Gershwin he admired Richard Rogers more. The Symphonic Rhapsody - With a Song in my Heart is most unusual inasmuch as it’s the only arrangement by Coates of another composer’s work – a big, rich, burgeoning tribute. London Suite - Again reminds us of the remarkable success of the earlier suite – once more the BBC took a first performance without a prior public outing. It’s undoubtedly inferior to the London Suite which it has never matched in popularity but it does bustle along in fine fashion, exploiting deft orchestration to picture-paint Oxford Street, Langham Place and Mayfair. By the Tamarisk – the kind of title British composers gave to their quartet movements – is affecting and The Three Bears receives a pin-point performance, witty and effortlessly inflected, and well captured by the Decca recording team of 1933.

Post-War, Coates continued to make recordings not least with the so-called Philharmonic Promenade Orchestra for EMI and with the New Symphony for Decca. He was a bracing and imaginative conductor whose works were written from the inside with a performer’s understanding. Don’t be confused by the front of the booklet – these recordings date from 1930-40 and not 1949. They are also delightfully evocative and well worth your money.
Jonathan Woolf

See also MusicWeb Eric Coates pages


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