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John FOX (b.1924)
Voyage of a Lifetime

Voyage of a Lifetime [3.36]
Jovial Knights Overture [3.05]
Joy of Love – Suite [22.11]
Safe Grazing [2.21]
Earth and Space – Suite [17.10]
Society Waltz [3.17]
Melodic Panorama [2,20]
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)

Love Walked In [4.21]*
TRADITIONAL

Scarborough Fair (arranged Fox) [4.07]
Billy Boy (arranged Fox) [2.25]
She Moved the Fair (arranged Fox) [3.53]
Danny Boy (arranged Fox) [4.05]
Noel COWARD (1899-1973)

London Pride (arranged Fox) [5.11]
Royal Ballet Sinfonia/Gavin Sutherland
Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra/John Fox
Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra/John Fox
John Fox Orchestra (and Singers) /John Fox
Recorded 1989-95
CAMPION CAMEO 2050 [78.27]

This is an invigorating, touching and impressive celebration of the ever tuneful and often bewitching talent of John Fox. He will be known to denizens of BBC Radio, to aficionados of staff arrangers of celebrated bands (Harry Rabinowitz, Paul Fenoulhet) and admirers generally of light music served up with the kind of art that decades have honed. He also happens to write damn fine tunes.

The title track is a splendid opener, showing his rich and sumptuous orchestration and from time to time we encounter his own orchestrations. Try Scarborough Fair, with its wistful cantilena and VW string choirs that show something of his daily-bread work. I’d also draw attention to She Walks Through The Fair for evidence of his practical but poetic approach to things that could otherwise be merely scrubbed up and dished out - none of that from Fox. Some Arnoldian moments (Malcolm not Matthew) seem to hover briefly over the Jovial Knights Overture whereas we get a full-blooded tribute to his hero Gershwin in Love Walked In where his late wife Joy takes the vocals so adeptly.

His Suite Earth and Space has some of the most advanced sonorities here and they show that Fox has tilled the soil. There’s a certain cinematic and Holstian element here in this compact little work but the Ethereal Sphere, the first movement, will certainly interest those for whom Fox is otherwise "merely" a light composer. There’s no stinting some MGM moments, nor the baleful brass of the Aliens, nor indeed the swirling star vistas of the last tableau, Visions. In all, this is a delightful suite.

The other suite is the most touching, written in memory of his wife, though the pain is recollected through nostalgia and the living sonorities evoked by their time together. It’s cast in eight compact movements – only the last breaks four minutes – and summons up a rich array of times and places. We journey onwards from the violins’ coiled warmth of First Meeting (lots of harp flutter, brass strength and glittery percussive tints) and then meet the bustle of Joy In a Mad Rush, where aided by a drum kit and tambourine, suspenseful strings and brass she scurries around breathlessly – and collapses exhausted at the end. The suite thrives on contrasts of mood and colour – a waltz, Scottish tunes – until the final moments that evoke her passing, when three doves flew down to sit on the windowpane. Flute sonorities and harp glissandi couple with gentle recollections of Scottish songs in this touchingly recollected and refashioned moment.

Fox is one of our leading composers in this genre and he and Gavin Sutherland lead their various orchestras with vigour, panache and sweeping authority. This is lyrical and superbly crafted music in the great line of British composers in the genre.

Jonathan Woolf

 



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