Once again I refer readers to my review
of vol. 1 for an overview of this series.
Gregson’s “Festivo” is the sort of brilliant band-piece of which
hundreds of similar examples must exist. Thoroughly effective
but hardly distinctive; I doubt if I’d recognize it if I met
already remarked on the unthrilling nature of every piece by
Alan Bush that’s come my way so far and I’m afraid I just sat
through this one – nearly ten minutes of it – waiting for something
to happen. I know there are people who rate him very highly
and I do assure them that I approach each new piece with an
open mind, but so far it’s been like that.
does happen in the end, thank God, is that the band start to
play Vaughan Williams’ English Folk Song Suite. Minor RVW maybe,
but music with personality and colour and, in the Intermezzo
on “My Bonny Boy”, considerable emotion. No doubt it was this
movement which made the suite, in its orchestral arrangement
by Gordon Jacob, a favourite with Boult – he even chose it as
the coupling for his last recording of “Enigma”. However, Bostock’s
splendid performance not only has the original instrumentation,
it also has an extra movement, “Sea Songs”, which was apparently
originally intended by the composer and then dropped for some
delight from Grainger and a lesson to Alan Bush that a piece
can be quite long without being boring.
name of Gordon Jacob has come up quite often as an arranger
during these reviews – it would have been nice to have something
original from him too. Instead, the Giles Farnaby Suite consists
of the sort of straightforward transcriptions anybody can do.
Some of the faster ones – particularly “His Humour” – are fun
but eleven movements are too many. There’s material here for
two suites if not three.
Sparke is much in demand as a composer of wind band music and
I’m not surprised! The textures at the beginning of “Gaudium”
are really ear-catching, suggesting that he is maybe the first
composer since Holst (at least in an English context) really
to explore the potentialities of the medium. I’m not
sure that the piece’s textural originality is matched by similar
thematic originality but it is definitely worth hearing.
a cupboard in my old school music room there were two marches
that I played over and over again: Coates’ “Dam-Busters March”
(see vol. 2 in this series) and this one by Walford Davies.
The Coates has remained with me ever since, not least because
of a super recording by Boult, but this is my first re-encounter
with the Walford Davies. I have to confess I had forgotten the
tune. More worryingly, even now that I’ve heard the recording,
I still can’t remember it though I certainly thought
it a lively piece.
series seems to be getting progressively less essential as it
goes on. Maybe future volumes (if planned) will redress the
balance. Get this one for Vaughan Williams, Grainger and Sparke,
but get the other volumes first.
an idea for a future issue: there is an Installation March op.108,
a set of three Military Marches op.109 (listed by Rodmell but
not by Dibble), an Ulster March and a March for Orchestra by
Stanford. Surely at least one of these might prove worthy of