Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

The Scottish Music Information Centre,
1 Bowmont Gardens,
Glasgow G12 9LR
Phone: +44(0)1413346393.
Price £11.99 +post £1.50 in UK.

John Maxwell GEDDES Galloway Bouquet
Thomas WILSON Cartoon
Edward MCGUIRE Sirocco
Peter INNES Symphonic Ode
Cedric Thorpe DAVIE The Wee Cooper o' Fife
Bruce FRASER Celebrations
Martin DALBY A Plain Man's Hammer
William SWEENEY Lost Mountain
Alan FERNIE Portrait of a City
West Lothian Celebrity Winds/Nigel Boddice
Rec. Howden Park Centre, Edinburgh - all except Cartoon which was recorded at RSAMD, Glasgow.
WEST LOTHIAN CELEBRITY WINDS label - no number [2CDs: 35'35"+40'75"]

To fill two CDs with wind band music – contemporary Scottish music at that – is a bold venture. But Nigel Boddice and his accomplished West Lothian wind band players have succeeded superbly in choosing music, contemporary or no, that is immediately appealing – most of it tuneful (it can be whistled!) and at the same time presenting a showcase for Scottish composers whose work is not always allowed the exposure to secure the credit that is certainly due them. This is a joyous concoction – and the commitment of director and players comes through from the very first bars.

The double disc, appropriately entitled ‘Celebrations’ begins ‘festively’ with a delightful spin round the flowers of Maxwell Geddes’ native county of Galloway. The musical dialect is fragrantly local from folk elements of his own devising.

John Purser said of the late Thomas Wilson "He is not a composer in whose musical company one can often relax, but the technical assurance and expressive integrity of his music have earned him the proper respect of his contemporaries and successors, for whom he has now become an elder statesman" (Scotland’s Music Mainstream 1992 pp.256/7). Though probably best known for his orchestral portrait ‘Touchstone’ his enigmatically entitled ‘Cartoon’ is virtuosic, originally for brass but here arranged by the conductor. Its two Scherzo sections are amiable enough and frame a centre whose lyrical quality is sombre, yet without severity, its darker moments providing a foil for the lighter music in this collection.

Edward McGuire’s ‘Sirocco’ begins naturally with a susurration, a whisper developing an insistent pulse as it explores a kind of musical travelogue before blowing itself out on the west coast of Scotland.

The next piece, a Symphonic Ode by Peter Innes, purports to tell a story. Its heraldic fanfare, a call to arms, suggests high romance, illustrated in the complex harmonies of the central section. This quasi-Gothic quality culminates in a triumphal march.

The final track on the first CD is from Cedric Thorpe Davie – a brilliant toe-tapping set of variations and an astonishing fugue on the popular ‘Wee Cooper o’ Fife’. This is truly whistling stuff – even of the syncopated fugue, and in its all too short duration Thorpe Davie, the renowned composer of film music, wrings the utmost from the ‘nickety nackety’ rhythm, even investing this musical doggerel with music that might easily suit a Hollywood epic, whose festive clamour collapses in the cheekiest of endings.

Bruce Fraser opens the second disc with his piece which gives the title to the recording. ‘Celebrations’ is in three movements, the first introduced by a sombre solo trumpet which leads to a perky dance in 11/8 gradually gaining momentum and becoming as breezy as anything in Aaron Copland. It is richly scored with some lush sounds. The second movement is rather more dark-hued, a swelling barcarole-like chordal pattern underpinning the lyrical voices of alto sax and cor anglais. The final movement’s fanfares and trenchant Holstian movement recalls for me the writing of Walter Hartley (who like Grainger and Derek Bourgeois wrote well also for wind band)

Martin Dalby’s ‘Plain Man’s Hammer’ (after Boulez’s ‘Le Marteau sans maitre’) begins seriously, but with warmth, its dark melodic movement decorated with an insistent chirruping woodwind figure. With an Ibert-like transition the music suddenly descends into a kind of circus "parade of parodies" – a Satie-like waltz, a tango, a March whose echoes of ‘Ach du lieber Augustin" suggests Mahler – some ‘blues’ from the big screen, another trumpeting March which, says the composer, seems somehow to get out of hand. With a ghostly echo of ‘Oranges and Lemons’ and some Spanish-sounding bars the opening material returns, but reflectively, the chirruping figure on hand officially to bless the proceedings.

The music of ‘The Lost Mountain’ by William Sweeney opens with a forlorn pibroch–type oboe melody which develops in a web of counterpoint. Its climax, and descent therefrom seem to follow the contours of the mountain – its passage redolent of the desolate vistas of the Highland landscape.

The concluding work in this exciting programme is ‘Portrait of a City’ – a brilliantly festive rival to John Ireland’s ‘London Overture’. The warm mid-section suggests the lull of the stroll in the park before the resumption of the bustle and the jostling crowds (among whom one senses a squad of sailors?)

The variety of colour in the absence of string tones is a miracle of contrast and colour, well deserving the title of the discs. The performance is masterly, the musical direction beautifully controlled – and above all the clarity of the sound is to be highly commended. It would make an ideal Christmas present – and the support of the venture by West Lothian Council is to be applauded. I hope it will be followed by others.

Colin Scott-Sutherland



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