This is a promising start to a series and leaves us
in positive hope for later volumes.
Blezard (whose piano music is represented by
a CD from Shellwood) wrote his Caramba in the mid-1960s when
the sun had set on British light music. I know it from a broadcast from
BBC Radio Three's Matinee Musicale series. Caramba delectably
mixes rumba, tango and havanaise in a sultriness that has about it enough
of the sea air to keep things from falling into Siesta. The piano
and the bass line are extremely well caught in vintage quality. Dark
colourations from the brass are one of the strengths of the piece. The
music has the same lively airiness as Williamson's opera Our Man
in Havana and if it cannot help referring to Constant Lambert's
Rio Grande or Berner's Caprice Péruvien. The work
stands at the intersection between Copland's El Salon Mexico (lacking
its grandiloquence) and Ravel's Rapsodie Espagnole (lacking its
Stanley Black is best known as a light music
conductor. His Overture to a Costume Comedy is a buzzing and
proud echo of Mozart's overture Nozze di Figaro and Symphony
James Langley's Overture and Beginners smacks
of Walton in its tightly wound ceremonial bravado and warm romance.
It also has some of the effervescence of Samuel Barber's ballet suite
Souvenirs (delectably done by Marin Alsop and the RSNO on Naxos).
Dunhill's light opera Tantivy Towers was
his most successful work though it sank after the 1950s only to be resurrected
fleetingly in a 1970s BBC studio revival. Dunhill's concert works including
a 1920s Symphony associated with Serbia and a set of Elegiac Variations
have remained unrecorded. The Overture, as arranged by Philip Lane,
dances along in the best traditions of the My Fair Lady race
scene with the odd reminiscence of hunting calls, Beethoven's Pastoral
and Do ye ken John Peel.
Chappell's Boy Wizard fizzes and shivers
along in recall, sometimes in strongly Arnoldian garb, of an academy
of wizardy. Sounds rather as if Mr Chappell might have been at work
at some stage on a score for the Harry Potter series. Chappell wrote
the signature tune for BBCTV's 1970s costume drama The Pallisers.
If Black's overture smacks of Mozart Walter Carroll's
sounds like a Haydn or early Beethoven tribute. It is the longest piece
here and does not deliver pleasure with as much natural ease as the
other overtures. Michael Hurd's overture is lightly romantic
with some strong cheeky references to Rawsthorne - I am sure I recognise
Street Corner in there.
Stepping back to the first decade of the last century
Monckton's overture to The Arcadians is a rather heavy
Mascagni-like confection at first then gathers itself for rum-ti-rum
episodes evocative of the 'Merry, merry pipes of Pan', 'I've got a motto'
and such-like from the show. The arrangement is by light music composer
A Spa Overture, by all-round light music champion,
Philip Lane (who also contributed the liner note) was written
to picture Cheltenham Spa. This it does with industrious seriousness
as well as some heroic contemplation for Edward Wilson the Cheltonian
Tom Pitfield's overture is folksy, busy, bucolic,
reflective and high-spirited with Gallic rustic references of the type
that you find in the Walton post-Agincourt music in Henry V.
Paul Lewis has clearly learnt from the light
music of Malcolm Arnold. The music of the Sussex Symphony Overture
might sometimes be mistaken for Arnold's - especially in relation
to the English Dances. However he is no mere epigone for the
central silvery poem wells up in a serene splendour that might almost
be Ravelian. It refers to the South Downs while the framing rumbustiousness
points towards the pageantry (but none of the bloodletting - not that
sort of overture folks) associated with the great castles at Hurstmontceux,
Arundel and Bodiam.
The heritage of British film music 1940-70 is never
far away from the music in this collection. Extremely welcome and done