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Matthew CURTIS (b.1959)
Orchestral Works: Vol. 2

Ring in the New (2004) [5:32]
Romanza (1982) [6:42]
Little Dance Suite (2004?) [14:07]
Irish Lullaby (2004) [3:16]
Graduation Day (2003?) [7:14]
Autumn Song (1985) [7:59]
Sinfonietta (1999-2001) [27:10]
Bon Voyage! (2002) [4:56]
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 Curtis's second complete disc on Campion.

Curtis is most at ease addressing his audience direct through melody, adroit orchestration and rhythmic fibre. His music is light in the best sense of the word therefore it is no surprise to see Philip Lane's name associated with the project as producer. As for orchestra and conductor they have delivered in this genre time after time.

Graduation Day has the bustle and darting vitality of Portsmouth Point and Scapino but it is the overarching melody that marks it out as memorable. It joins the honourable tradition of flighty British concert overtures. After ebullience there comes the sentiment of Romanza with its succulent and damask-heavy string textures - a touch of both Enigma and Tchaikovsky here.

The Little Dance Suite has six movements. There's a sumptuous Valse with some bright-eyed work for woodwind, a posthorn-bright Fandango (with Mike Allen's trumpet), a slowly footed Sarabande, a stamping Bolero with a nod or two to Rimsky and Chabrier, an irresistibly supercilious clarinet solo (Ian Scott) in the form of a Humoresque and a rompingly buoyant Tarantella recalling similar local colour in the Curtis Suite Paths to Urbino.

The brief Irish Lullaby has a prominent part for Helen Keen's flute but she is ably supported by harp and strings. The melody has about it the glimmer of Moon River and the soft air of Kerry. Graduation Day is another concert overture of the type in which Curtis is adept. The manner and melodic content suggests for me that peculiar brand of 1950s innocence and confidence. Autumn Song has a touchingly valedictory role for Helen Kamminga's viola. Its relationships are with Finzi (2:50), Elgar (4:53), Moeran and Milford.

The Sinfonietta was written to a symphonic scheme. It is in three movements the first of which is a variegated allegro scherzando. It proceeds with grace and Elgarian (Second Symphony) confidence and has some warmly buoyant writing for the brass complement. The allegro cantabile is marked 'West of Dingle'. Its genesis was in a glorious July day on the Dingle peninsula. This is contented sea music, winsome rather than stormy, sun-dappled and not in anger. I do find these Irish reels pestilentially infuriating - not sure why - so I probably did not warm to the final allegro con fuoco as much as I might however it is very effective not to say uproarious.

Bon Voyage! bids the listener a fondly confident farewell with all the joie de vivre of Dvořák's Scherzo Capriccioso. Curtis even weaves in a little ‘thank you’ to the conductor by including a quote from his song Four Dollars and a Dime from his musical Little Women. Bright and breezy stuff and no mistake.

The notes are by the composer and are pretty full.

Rob Barnett

see also review by Em Marshall



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