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Gordon LANGFORD (b.1930)
Orchestral Classics

1) Fanfare and Ceremonial Prelude (1981/1995) [4:34]
2) Concertino for Trumpet and Orchestra (1979) [11:37]
3) Four movements for String Orchestra (1965) [16:14]
4) A Song for all seasons - A Fantasie for Piano and Orchestra (1997) [11:48]
5) First Suite of Dances (1973) [14:01)
6) Greenways (1970) [3:30]
7) Spirit of London (overture) (1965) [6:43]
8) The Hippodrome Waltz (1988) [3:10]
9) Pastorale (1996) from Colour Suite [3:08]
10) March (1966) from Colour Suite [3:18]
Crispian Steele-Perkins, Trumpet (2)
William Stephenson, Piano (4)
BBC Concert Orchestra/Rumon Gamba
Recorded in BBC Maida Vale Studios, London, 26-27 Feb 2003
CHANDOS CHAN 10115 [79:04]


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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 recorded.

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 scale.

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.

Steve Arloff

 

 



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