Schubert sonatas

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Matthew CURTIS (b. 1959)
Orchestral Works (Volume II)

Ring in the New (2004) [5.32]
Romanza (1982) [6.42]
Little Dance Suite (2003) [13.03]
Irish Lullaby (2003) [3.16]
Graduation Day (1988?) [7.14]
Autumn Song (1985) [7.59]
Sinfonietta (1999-2001) [27.10]
Bon Voyage (2002) [4.56]
Helen Keen (flute); Helen Kamminga (harp); Mike Allen, trumpet; Ian Scott, flute
Royal Ballet Sinfonia/Gavin Sutherland
rec. 24 Feb 2004, Phoenix Sound, Wembley; 5-6 July 2004, Whitfield Street Studios, London. DDD
British Composer series
CAMPION CAMEO 2035 [76.53]


This is the second volume of works by Matthew Curtis in Campion Cameo’s British Composer Series [Volume 1]. These are rather glitzy, light and even frivolous works in the light music vein. The performances, given appropriately enough by the Royal Ballet Sinfonia conducted by Gavin Sutherland, are good, though, like the pieces themselves, fairly showy and flashy – brilliant, but slightly superficial.

The disc opens with the jolly Ring in the New, followed by an Elgarian Romanza, which contains some nice harmonies, rich and lustrous, as well as pleasantly prominent woodwind and brass. The ensuing Little Dance Suite opens with a Valse – bright and fun, then moves on to a high-spirited and brief Fandango, a beautifully lyrical Sarabande, a Bolero and Humoresque (hinting at the tune of My grandfather’s Clock, yet lacking any sense of accompanying poignancy) before concluding in similarly frolicsome style with a Tarantella.

The unquestionably Irish Irish Lullaby, with its gorgeous flute solo, is a more soulful work, and comes as a slight relief to the empty dizziness of the previous pieces. We head immediately back to the traditional Light Music sounds, however, with the next piece, Graduation Day.

Autumn Song was, for me, the most rewarding work on the disc. Gentle, lyrical and romantic, with overtones of nostalgia and poignancy, it grows to a slightly Elgarian and impassioned climax, before returning to a serene and dreamy conclusion.

The pleasantly light and jolly Sinfonietta precedes the final work, Bon Voyage, which concludes the disc with an aptly festive and jocund note.

On the whole, I found this disc a little too much like pastiche. The more "serious" music is rather filmy, and the rest very much conventional Light Music. Although colourfully orchestrated, with some lovely harmonies and excellent instrumental writing, these pieces were too flippant and frivolous for my personal taste, rather lacking in feeling and substance – a deficiency reflected by the performance. On the other hand, however, it is wonderful to encounter a contemporary composer writing tuneful works that are actually pleasant to the ear.

On the whole, this disc is an agreeable listen, full of charming and genial music, but is fairly easy and lightweight. It is more likely to appeal to lovers of Light Music than serious classical music buffs.

Em Marshall

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