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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

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The Best of British, Vol. 3
Edward GREGSON (b.1945)
Festivo (1985) [04:59]
Alan BUSH (1900-1995)
Dance Overture, op.12 (1930) [09:56]
Ralph VAUGHAN WILLIAMS (1872-1958)
English Folk Song Suite (4-movement version, 1923) [14:33]
Percy GRAINGER (1882-1961)
The Lads of Wamphray March (1904, rev.1938, ed. Kreines) [07:33]
Gordon JACOB (1895-1984)
Giles Farnaby Suite (1922) [18:39]
Philip SPARKE (b.1951)
Gaudium: Concert Piece for Wind Symphony Orchestra  (1974) [07:39]
Sir Henry WALFORD DAVIES (1869-1941)
Royal Air Force March Past (arr. Dyson, 1918) [03:05]
Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra/Douglas Bostock
rec. 17-18 October 2005, Sun Azalea, Saitama
KOSEI PUBLISHING COMPANY KOCD-8013 [67:06]




Once again I refer readers to my review of vol. 1 for an overview of this series.

Edward 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 it again.

I’ve 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.

What 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 reason.

More delight from Grainger and a lesson to Alan Bush that a piece can be quite long without being boring.

The 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.

Philip 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.

In 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.

This 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.

Just 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 resurrection?

Christopher Howell

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