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Anthony COLLINS (1893-1963)
Film and Other Music

Festival Royal Overture (1956) [4:30]
Vanity Fair (1952) [3:42]
The Song of Erin (Lamentation) [5:05]
Victoria the Great (1937) [13:12]
The Saga of Odette - Valse Lente (1950) [2:18]
The Lady With a Lamp - Prelude and valse variations (1951) [4:53]
Eire (1938) [11:04]
Santa Cecilia (1959) [4:14]
Louis XV Silhouettes (1939) [11:45]
Symphony for Strings (No. 1) (1940) [12:12]
BBC Concert Orchestra/John Wilson
rec. The Colosseum, Town Hall, Watford, England, 28-30 September 2005. DDD
world premiere recordings except Vanity Fair, Odette, Lamp, Eire
DUTTON CDLX 7162 [73:52]

Further details about Collins at:-

Anthony Collins is probably best remembered today as a gifted conductor, particularly of Sibelius and especially of that composer’s symphonies, all seven of which he memorably recorded for Decca in the early days of LPs (early 1950s). These are now once again available on the Beulah label:-

Collins wrote many film scores, notably for producer Herbert Wilcox in England. They include - other than those featured here - The Swiss Family Robinson and Tom Brown’s Schooldays. Alas much of his music seems to have been lost due to various take-overs in the music-publishing industry. But with this new release, piloted by the young conductor John Wilson, who is also something of a scholar specialising in lighter music, perhaps a Collins’s revival might be imminent?

Victoria the Great, starring Anna Neagle, was Anthony Collins’s first film score. The ‘Prelude’ opens and closes imposingly, as befits the subject, with one of his memorable ‘royal’ slow marches not far removed from Elgar and Walton and used in the coronation scenes. In between there is atmospheric material underscoring the Lord Chamberlain’s urgent ride to Kensington to inform the young Victoria that she is now Queen. ‘Portrait of Lord Melbourne on his Horse’ introduces some gentle whimsy in the eighteenth century classical style as the old soldier, who is having his portrait painted, is mildly ribbed by the Queen. ‘Victoria and Albert’ is a tender picture of domestic conjugal bliss while ‘The Queen’s Caprice’ underscores Victoria’s gentle guying of the hesitant Prince Albert when they first meet. Another grand march ‘Victoria Regina’, complete with cannon salutes, and integrated with the coronation music, is heard over the end titles. It concludes this suite.

From another Anna Neagle film about the World War II heroine, Odette, we hear the charming Viennese-waltz-style ‘Valse Lente’. The Lady with Lamp, again featuring producer Herbert Wilcox’s wife, Anna Neagle, is represented by ‘Prelude and Valse Variations’. Collins’s Prelude music speaks eloquently of suffering, endurance and heroism while the waltz variations move from battlefields to glittering ballrooms.

The Festival Royal Overture forms a wonderful rousing opening to this album’s concert. As its name implies, it is full of pomp and circumstance. It was first performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Stanford Robinson on 6 June 1956. Besides its royal connotations it would seem to be very suitable for newsreel introductory music.

Perhaps the best known item is Collins’s delightful four-minute light music encore, Vanity Fair first broadcast September 1952 and performed countless times since.

The Song of Erin (subtitled Lamentation - perhaps for a dead hero as the concluding bars might suggest - is a mistily atmospheric Celtic piece spotlighting the cor anglais. More Celtic music, from the Emerald Isle, Eire is a three-movement suite commencing with a jolly swaggering ‘Battle March’ setting of ‘Mat Hannigan’s Aunt’; next comes a misty dream-like ‘Reverie’ arrangement of the well-known song ‘The Mountains of Mourne’ and finally another merry setting of ‘Phil the Fluter’s Ball’. Santa Cecilia, termed by Anthony Collins as a madrigal, was one of the composer’s last compositions, written some four years before his death. No clue is given as to the subject matter of this gently flowing work except that it might be thought to be a sunny depiction of the church of that name in Rome.

Louis XV Silhouettes’ first movement ‘At Versailles’ begins majestically with a flourish in the grand style of Lully before proceeding to sound rather more like Handel. ‘At the Tuileries’ covers various dances: ‘Sicilienne’, ‘Tambourin’, ‘Pavane’, ‘Forlane’, and ‘Passecaille’ - all cast in the style of the period but with an unmistakeable Collins overlay, often spiced with a pinch of sly wit. The Suite concludes with a movement entitled ‘At Luciennes’ located at the chateau of the King’s mistress, Madame du Barry. The music is all feminine charm, frippery and inconsequence.

The album concludes with the first of Collins’s symphonies for strings. It is another example of the composer’s predilection for pastiche period pieces. And once more his style is elastic, overlaying his own light, witty touch over: first a Haydn-like Allegro; then an introspective ‘Adagio molto’ that mourns gravely in the style of Bach, and finally the ‘Allegro vivace’ that takes us back to the Celtic with a jolly, skittish setting of a song that I seem to remember is entitled ‘Oh Dear What Can the Matter Be?’ - or has that line predominant.

John Wilson leads the BBC Concert Orchestra in sparkling performances of these charming confections.

Charming light music by a quite-forgotten composer-conductor.

Ian Lace

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