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British Light Classics
Sir Malcolm ARNOLD (b. 1921)
English Dance, Op. 33 No. 1 (1951)
Eric COATES (1886-1957)
Calling all Workers (1940)
By the Sleepy Lagoon (1930); Dam Buster’s March (1955)
Arthur WOOD (1875-1953)
Barwick Green (1925)
Vivian ELLIS (1903-1996)
Coronation Scot (1948)
Haydn WOOD (1882-1959)
The Bandstand (1936)
Hubert BATH (1883-1945)
Cornish Rhapsody (1945)
Robert FARNON (b .1917)
Portrait of a Flirt (1949)
Westminster Waltz (1956)
Trevor DUNCAN (b.1924)
March, from Little Suite (1960)
Charles WILLIAMS (1893-1978)
Rhythm on Rails (1956)
Heart O’ London (1953)
The Devil’s Galop (1944)
Arthur BENJAMIN (1893-1960)
Jamaican Rumba (1938)
Edward WHITE (1910-1994)
Puffing Billy (1954)
Anthony COLLINS (1893-1963)
Vanity Fair (1952)
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Chanson de Nuit (1897)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Barry Wordsworth Recorded 4-5 April 2003, Henry Wood Hall, London
WARNER CLASSICS 2564 61438-2 [59.35]

The resurgence of British Light Music in recent years has encouraged a spate of recordings, to which these performances by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with Barry Wordsworth make a worthwhile addition.

The recording, produced by Andrew Keener in London’s Henry Wood Hall, is warm and sympathetic, nor does it lack impact when required. And the production standards are particularly high, with a well planned booklet containing exemplary notes by George Hall.

The music is rather less even than these accolades might suggest, and those wanting a single disc of this fare might turn instead to Ronald Corp and the New London Orchestra on Hyperion. There are highlights, to be sure, including the pieces by Elgar and Arnold as one would expect; but besides these Hubert Bath’s Cornish Rhapsody and Arthur Wood’s Barwick Green – the latter the theme tune from The Archers (this might well mean something to our UK readers) – are banal, to say the least.

Eric Coates gains two fine performances of his spirited marches, some of the best since Elgar and not heard as often in our concert halls as they should be. By the Sleepy Lagoon, the now famous signature tune from ‘Desert Island Discs’, is given a rather prosaic performance, lacking the additional woodwind counterpoints that bring added interest. However, set against that is the splendid richness of the RPO’s string tone, a real bonus throughout the disc.

Although Wordsworth’s performance of Charles Williams’s The Devil’s Galop does not quite match the intensity generated by Corp on his disc, the other pieces by this talented composer – Heart O’ London and Rhythm on rails – add an extra distinction to this Warner Classics issue. In fact the disc makes something of a feature of music inspired by railways, with Edward White’s marvellous Puffing Billy and Vivian Ellis’s equally inspired Coronation Scot.

While this may not class as a first choice in this increasingly competitive market, there are some appealing features about this disc, and anyone buying it is unlikely to be disappointed.

Terry Barfoot


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