I was reflecting that this repertoire must rarely have been played
with such spirit and expertise since the famous old Mercury records
by the Eastman Wind Ensemble under Frederick Fennell. Then I looked
at the booklet and saw that Fennell himself became principal conductor
of the TOKWO in 1984, and conductor laureate in 1996. But Douglas
Bostock has been their principal conductor since 2000 and I am
sure he deserves all due credit for maintaining such excellent
standards as well as for his lively and understanding interpretations.
seems to me that Bostock, like his Scottish colleague Donald
Runnicles, has suffered from the British tendency to view with
suspicion native conductors who have mostly made their career
abroad. A curious inversion of this strange mentality emerged
when Simon Rattle, the local wonder-kid who could do no wrong
for as long as he remained in Birmingham, was called to Berlin
and became overnight an unscrupulous careerist with hardly any
talent at all. The true-blue-Brit idea that one just doesn’t
get mixed up with foreigners is taking a long time to die.
series is not intended to provide “The Best of British Music”.
As Bostock himself tells us in a note, the title comes from
the expression “the best of British luck” and points more than
anything else to the predominantly cheery mood of these mostly
lightish pieces. But, while any choice of the best of British
music would have to embrace such things as “Enigma”, “Gerontius”
and “Peter Grimes” – just to stay in the period covered here
– the foreigner who comes to British music through this series
should nonetheless get a highly favourable impression.
opening “Flourish” by Vaughan Williams, for example – which
was new to me – says a remarkable lot in two-and-a-half minutes.
It has that noble breadth which entered British music through
Parry, but also a suggestion in its countermelodies of a certain
Grainger’s “Lincolnshire Posy” has – characteristically – a
crazily misleading title, for its slow movements pack a real
emotional punch. Together with the irresistible verve of its
quicker pieces, this is a BIG work, and as good a refutation
as any of Constant Lambert’s notorious dictum that the only
thing you can do with a folk-tune is to “play it again louder”.
not quite so sure about the Hoddinott “Welsh Airs and Dances”.
They’re pleasant enough, but while Vaughan Williams, Grainger
and Holst all showed in their own day that a composer can be
contemporary without losing his audience, Hoddinott in this
case seems to be trying the George Lloyd trick of just not being
a contemporary composer at all. There isn’t the character here
that you find in his best serious works.
certainly doesn’t lack character and this rare Japanese Suite
is no exception. I have always loved it in Boult’s Lyrita recording
of the original orchestration and have never seen why it didn’t
reach the same popularity as “Beni Mora”. Bostock doesn’t wean
me off the original but the music is remarkably effective in
this form and the actual interpretation stands up well beside
the Elgar, too, Bostock seems to have inherited Boult’s way
of making this music swing without ever getting bogged down
in the patriotic moments. No. 4 starts with the right air of
suppressed excitement just dying to burst out – which of course
it soon does.
paper, I thought it a bit unimaginative to follow the two Elgar
marches with another march, but this cheeky piece by Grainger
is something else again and makes a whoopy ending to a programme
which should encourage foreigners to explore British music while
at the same time providing some rarer items for the British
notes by Lewis Foreman contain all the information one would
expect from him, the recording is excellent and I have volumes
2 and 3 lined up for review so watch this space!