I am thrilled to be
reviewing this disc. They say that what
goes around comes around and it seems
to me that this opportunity falls into
that category. Around 1935, in a primary
school in Edgware, London, a teacher
played her class something on the piano
and when she’d finished one of her pupils
asked if he could "have a go"
and promptly played the piece she had
just finished note perfect. When the
teacher, who was naturally dumbfounded,
asked how he had managed it he replied
"I just watched your hands".
The small boy was Gordon Langford, the
teacher was my mother. As the liner
notes explain Gordon Colman (as he was
then) had piano lessons from the age
of 5 and had one of his compositions
performed publicly at the age of 9.
After receiving a scholarship to the
Royal Academy of Music, where he studied
piano and trombone, he played trombone
in the Royal Artillery Band during his
National Service. As he was a far better
pianist than my mother she engaged him
to try to teach me to play. Though he
did his best I was far too lazy, once
saying to him that I wanted to play
like Beethoven without practising (!)
to which he replied "so do we all".
My mother maintained an interest in
Gordon’s progress and we remained friends
for many years. So it can be imagined
how happy I am to have the chance to
review this disc, especially since,
apart from the final track, every piece
is a premiere recording. When you’ve
heard this CD you may well wonder, as
I did, how such fine and high-spirited
music can have waited so long to be
The disc opens with
Fanfare and Ceremonial Prelude which
is suitably regal in mood with that
quintessential ingredient that makes
it a very English composition. The Concertino
for Trumpet and Orchestra follows and
is a true showcase for the instrument.
No orchestral trumpets are used in order
to shine a spotlight on the soloist.
This enables him to take full advantage
of the superlative writing for his instrument.
Next are Gordon’s Four
Movements for String Orchestra. Again
we have that special and unique "English"
feel to the music. The first is upbeat
in mood as are almost all the pieces.
It has a real skip in its beat. The
second is more serious with a beautifully
wistful opening theme and an equally
lovely one to follow. The third and
fourth movements are also charming and
all hint that they are ripe for development
into something on an altogether grander
A Song for all Seasons
is described as a "fantasie for
Piano and Orchestra". It opens
with a theme that is as serious as it
is melodic, with a twenties feel to
it. In fact it frequently brought Gershwin
to mind. This is a miniature gem imbued
with excitement and carried off with
panache by William Stephenson as soloist.
The first Suite of
Dances would make a wonderful, if brief,
ballet, if it hasn’t already been danced
to. All the four movements are quite
beautiful. The second, a Russian sounding
waltz, reminded me of a Kabalevsky piece.
Greenways, although only 3½ minutes
long, is a nostalgic look at the areas
of closed railway lines. It perfectly
laments their passing in music whilst
proudly celebrating their history.
Spirit of London is,
as its title proclaims, a musical celebration
of that huge city. Its short length
(less than 7 minutes), embraces references
to Bow Bells and street cries by pedlars
and traders. It is, as the composer
writes in the liner notes, "…a
tribute to a once great city."
He clearly believes that at some stage
London has lost the elements that once
made it so special.
The Hippodrome Waltz
was written for the BBC Concert Orchestra
whose home is the Hippodrome Theatre.
In Gordon’s youth he was taken there
to see opera, ballet, pantomimes and
variety shows, as was I, it being the
nearest theatre to where we both lived.
The last two items are taken from his
"Colour Suite". The very last
is the only piece of all of Gordon’s
brilliant music for orchestra to have
been previously available on record.
As Gordon worked as
orchestrator for films such as "Raiders
of the Lost Ark", "Superman
II", "Clash of the Titans"
and "Return to Oz", it is
even more perplexing that his orchestral
music has remained unrecorded up until
now. Chandos are to be congratulated
for recording this disc. I hope that
it will encourage further issues. Rumon
Gamba is a true champion of "light
music", though it is my opinion
that such a description of the music
on this disc is entirely inappropriate.
The BBC Concert Orchestra under Gamba’s
direction plays superbly and this contributes
to what is a really exhilarating survey
of a wonderful English composer’s work.