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British Light Music
New London Orchestra/Ronald Corp
rec. CD1: 30 November-1 December 1995; CD2: 21-22 October 1996; CD3: 3-4 August 1999; CD4 11-12 April 2002. DDD
Originally released at full price and still available as Hyperion CDA66868; CDA66968; CDA67148; CDA67400 respectively
HYPERION CDS442614 [4 CDs: 76:53 + 76:25 + 78:45 + 77:58]



British Light Music

CD1 [76:53]
Eric COATES
Calling All Workers [3:20]
Geoffrey TOYE
The Haunted Ballroom [8:15]
Anthony COLLINS
Vanity Fair [3:53]
Robert FARNON
Jumping Bean [2:24]
Sydney BAYNES
Destiny [8:29]
Frederic CURZON
The Boulevardier [3:55]
W Meyer LUTZ
Pas de quatre [3:39]
Ronald BINGE
The Watermill (with Ruth Scott, oboe) [3:45]
Charles WILLIAMS
The Devil’s Galop [3:12]
Armstrong GIBBS
Dusk [6:07]
Edward WHITE
Puffin’ Billy [3:40]
Albert W KETÈLBEY
Bells Across the Meadows [4:40]
Charles WILLIAMS
The Old Clockmaker [3:12]
Archibald JOYCE
Dreaming [6:04]
Ronald BINGE
Elizabethan Serenade [3:20]
Vivian ELLIS
Coronation Scot [2:57]
Charles ANCLIFFE
Nights of Gladness [5:39]
CD2 [76:25]
Eric COATES
Knightsbridge March from London Suite [4:34]
Percy FLETCHER
Bal Masqué: Valse-Caprice: [6:35]
Ernest BUCALOSSI
The Grasshopper’s Dance [4:10]
Arthur WOOD
Barwick Green - A Maypole Dance from My Native Heath [3:20]
Fred HARTLEY
Rouge et Noir [2:46]
Robert FARNON
The Peanut Polka [2:56]
Benjamin FRANKEL
Carriage and Pair [2:49]
Haydn WOOD
The Horse Guards, Whitehall from London Landmarks [3:50]
‘Trevor DUNCAN’
March from A Little Suite [3:18]
Ronald BINGE
Sailing By [2:50]
Gilbert VINTER
Portuguese Party [3:19]
Clive RICHARDSON
Beachcomber [3:13]
Herman FINCK
In the Shadows [5:54]
Robert DOCKER
Tabarinage [3:28]
Albert W KETÈLBEY
Sanctuary of the Heart ‘Méditation réligieuse’ [4:50]
Robert FARNON
The Westminster Waltz [2:58]
Edward ELGAR
Carissima [3:41]
Charles WILLIAMS
Girls in Grey [2:38]
Edward WHITE
The Runaway Rocking-Horse [3:59]
Frederic CURZON
March of the Bowmen from Robin Hood Suite [4:42]
CD3 [78:45]
Haydn WOOD
Montmartre [3:47]
Clive RICHARDSON, arr HANMER Melody on the Move [2:42]
Jack STRACHEY
In Party Mood [4:01]
Trevor DUNCAN
The Girl from Corsica [4:37]
Lionel MONCKTON
Soldiers in the Park [3:51]
Felix GODIN, arr Adolf LOTTER Valse Septembre [5:22]
Ronald BINGE
Miss Melanie [2:25]
Ivan CARYLL
Pink Lady Waltz [5:25]
Robert FARNON
Portrait of a Flirt [2:44]
Harry DEXTER
Siciliano [4:37]
Albert KETÈLBEY
In a Persian Market* [6:15]
Jack STRACHEY Theatreland [3:19]
Archibald JOYCE
Songe d’Automne [4:46]
Vivian ELLIS, arr Sidney TORCH Alpine Pastures [3:40]
Ernest TOMLINSON
Little Serenade [3:31]
George MELACHRINO
Woodland Revel [3:10]
Tolchard EVANS, arr Fred HARTLEY/Ken WARNER Lady of Spain [3:02]
Charles ANCLIFFE
Smiles, then Kisses [4:26]
Sidney TORCH
On a Spring Note [2:31]
Eric COATES
Music Everywhere (‘Rediffusion March’ [3:20]
CD4 [77:58]
‘Marshall ROSS’
Marching Strings [2:45]
Peter HOPE
Jaunting Car from The Ring of Kerry [2:46]
‘Trevor DUNCAN’
High Heels [3:13]
Frederic CURZON
Dance of an Ostracised Imp [3:21]
John FOULDS
Keltic Lament from A Keltic Suite Op. 29 † [4:14]
Charles WILLIAMS
Rhythm on Rails [2:47]
Eric COATES
By the Sleepy Lagoon [4:03]
Arthur BENJAMIN
Jamaican Rumba [2:06]
Albert W KETÈLBEY
In a Monastery Garden [5:53]
Charles WILLIAMS
A Quiet Stroll [2:55]
Percy FLETCHER
Demoiselle Chic - Parisian Sketches No 1 [3:59]
Jack BEAVER
Cavalcade of Youth [3:40]
Fredric BAYCO
Elizabethan Masque * [2:16]
Henry BALFOUR GARDINER
Shepherd Fennel’s Dance [5:31]
Charles ANCLIFFE Thrills [6:04]
Frederick ROSSE
The Doge’s March from The Merchant of Venice [4:55]
Samuel COLERIDGE-TAYLOR
Petite Suite de Concert Op. 77: La caprice de Nanette [4:00]; Demande et réponse [4:56]; Un sonnet d’amour [4:01]; La tarantelle frétillante [2:23]

 

British light music reigned on radio and in the concert halls from the 1920s until the 1960s and then waned ... suffering an apparently terminal illness. The lowest point came when the BBC axed the mid-afternoon hour's slot – known as Matinée Musicale on Radio 3. Matinée Musicale had become the ghetto for studio concerts of light music recorded by the BBC Concert Orchestra and conducted at first by Stanford Robinson and then by Ashley Lawrence. The end came in the early 1980s.

Coates and Ketèlbey were survivors of a once flourishing two or three generations. They enjoyed a scant survival in the LP catalogue but in greybeard recordings. All was not lost. The launch of a new recording medium (the CD) seems to have been the salvation for the genre – and of others too. Klaus Heymann's Marco Polo label launched a series each featuring a different British light music composer. The sessions took place in the Czech Republic where recording costs were lower. Coates and Ketèlbey each had a disc and more but then so did Curzon, Haydn Wood and about twenty others. ASV followed and by the mid-1990s other labels (though not the majors) were making a significant impact with British light music.

The present Hyperion series was different. It began in 1995 and came to volume 4 by 2002. The orchestra and conductor were English and the style was exactly comme il faut. There was no attempt to reinvent the genre and tempi and balance were close to the well-loved originals as used for signature tunes and the like. The recording values were typically exemplary. Hyperion are industriously down pricing and imaginatively repackaging much of its long established catalogue and the listener is the beneficiary. That’s certainly the case here. Here are the four discs all still available separately at full price yet now to be purchased together for less than half price.

Here are my listening notes:-

CD 1

Calling All Workers has the requisite bounce and strut and the trio theme is full of murmurous confidence. The Tchaikovskian, nostalgic and balletic qualities of Collins’ Vanity Fair are memorable; it turns a slim and well-sculpted heel. Farnon's Jumping Bean sounds for all the world like a refugee from a St Trinians score. Baynes’ Destiny waltz is swell and sumptuous. Pas de quatre sounds faintly absurd in a music hall manner. Then we come to the sweet balm of Binge's lovely The Water Mill - a perfect little scena for oboe and orchestra. Dusk savours of Delius and RVW. Puffin' Billy will stir up memories of adults of a certain age - it was the signature tune for BBC radio Children's Favourites. Bells across the Meadow has sounded more ethereal but it sounds well enough in Corp's hands. The Old Clockmaker is suitably whimsical. Yet more mastery from the smiling delight of Binge's Elizabethan Serenade - a sweet inspiration. And my how well Corp uses dynamics throughout this series! Ellis's Coronation Scot starts full of venom but soon develops that plush swaying motion. These are a superb evocation of the original recordings. Ancliffe's Nights of Gladness reeks of old Vienna, affluence and brightly-lit ballrooms.

CD2

That rather overstuffed waltz world is evoked again in Bal masqué by Percy Fletcher. Then, out of the same silk top hat, comes Hartley's Rouge et Noir - actually it is much better orchestrated than the Fletcher as is another grand dance number from the same stable: Finck's In the Shadows. Humour returns though - and much needed after all those starched collars - in Bucalossi's The Grasshopper's Dance. Arthur Wood's Barwick Green is instantly recognisable to Brits as the old-style theme tune for the radio series The Archers. Good to hear it in full though. Carriage and Pair - another lilting little beauty over a clip-clop ostinato from that otherwise fearsome atonal symphonist, Benjamin Frankel. The March from Trevor Duncan's Little Suite is again well known as the theme tune from BBCTV's 1960s version of Dr Finlay's Casebook. It has the authentic sound of the original soundtrack so nostalgia lovers will not be affronted. Binge's Sailing By is effortlessly smooth and full of the sense of bosky palm trees. Then we come to the latino snap and snooze of Vinter's Portuguese Party which owes a little here and there both to Chabrier and Copland. There’s more whimsy from Richardson's clarinet solo-incited Beachcomber. Docker's Tabarinage is nicely flighty. Farnon's wonderful Westminster Waltz works very nicely indeed. Corp is a master of the silky line and the well-timed hesitation. This really is a cut above the rather heavy Ancliffes, Fincks and Fletchers. Girls in Grey still sounds pompous and absurd even when done as well as this - yet I guess that is the point - a touch of Sousa in there too. Edward White's The Runaway Rocking Horse is an innocent little fantasy piece. Curzon's March of the Bowmen is good of its sort recalling the world of Korngold as well though spliced with some Elgar.

CD3

Clive Richardson (arr. Ronald Hanmer, who later went to Australia) is flighty yet again in Melody on the Move which goes with a real zing. Jack Strachey's In Party Mood is likely to be best known as background to an advertisement for household cleaning products but this music is so obstinately and insinuatingly memorable that it will keep finding new milieux. Superbly Latinate, cool with shadows and Mediterranean feeling is the wonderful The Girl from Corsica by Trevor Duncan. Good but slightly tired as music - not the performance - is Dexter's Sicilano. There’s more absurdist fluff from Monckton's Soldiers in the Park. Speaking of absurd we also get the sand-dance kitsch of Ketelbey's In A Persian Market (complete with chorus). Binge returns with the gentle hiccup of Miss Melanie - sweet stuff and all done up for you with bows and ribbons. Portrait of a Flirt by Farnon follows as a necessary antidote to the heavy bread pudding of Caryll's Pink Lady Waltz. Strachey's Theatreland breathes the air of the streets around London's theatres. Archibald Joyce picks up on the Tchaikovskian vein in Songe d'automne. It still works well in all its warmth. Alpine Pastures by Vivian Ellis will be familiar as the ‘sig’ for My Word on the BBC radio Home Service; latterly Radio 4. Ernest Tomlinson has done so much for British light music preserving so much of it during the dark days of the 1950s-80s when the skip and the furnace beckoned and swallowed so much performing material. His cool yet touchingly lilting Little Serenade fully merits its place in this company. Melachrino's Woodland Revel is stomped and chattered out with alacrity. Lady of Spain takes us back to the Iberian peninsula and processed Chabrier but all rather cheerily done. Ancliffe's Smile then Kisses is another sub-Viennese aristocratic confection. Thank heavens for Torch's flitter and flutter syncopation in On a Spring Note - Gershwin in Brighton - well you know what I mean. Coates’ Rediffusion March is annoyingly cheery but this is nothing against the alert performance just my irritation with much of Coates.

CD4

Marshall Ross's Marching Strings is not just for strings but whole orchestra. It proceeds at a fastish saunter with a touch of the St Trinian's about it. It's stalking string theme for years was the ‘sig’ to BBC TV's Top of the Form. Peter Hope's Jaunting Car from The Ring of Kerry suite is a sort of Gaelic Carriage and Pair with one of those long and infinitely unwinding tunes. It’s sub-Moeran but most beautifully done and complete with bagpipe drone; a lovely piece. There's also a skirl there amid Rhythm of Rails by Charles Williams. Trevor Duncan's High Heels is a flurry of 1950s style pizzicato - sophisticated: all fresh rain, shop windows and neon; another standout track. Curzon's cheeky Griegian Dance of an Ostracised Imp is followed by Foulds' Keltic Lament from A Keltic Suite - pity the whole suite was not included as it would have picked up on another burgeoning market. Michal Kaznowski's honeyed solo cello registers strongly here. We do however get the Coleridge-Taylor Petite Suite de Concert which despite Corp's excellent performance remains pretty low-key stuff. Tepid. On the other hand Coates’ By the Sleepy Lagoon is perfectly done - an exercise in fidelity to the original broadcast version yet with lift and freshness. Arthur Benjamin's Jamaican Rumba started out as a two piano piece but was later arranged for orchestra. In a Monastery Garden will appeal to many but this syrupy sub-Elgarian sentimentality is just too much for me. It is nevertheless most skilfully done and is complete with birdsong. Charles Williams' A Quiet Stroll is a smiling echo of Grainger's Country Gardens. Percy Fletcher's Demoiselle Chic belongs with the heavy molasses of Ancliffe (also represented here by the sumptuously Straussian waltz Thrills) and Finck. Jack Beaver leans on Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 and Capriccio Italien for Cavalcade of Youth and then pulls off a nice dignified trio melody. Frederick Bayco's Elizabethan Masque looks back from the renaissance of the second Elizabethan Age to the first with imagined grace and touching sentiment - a nice oboe solo too. Balfour Gardiner was the affluent friend of many British composers and a great planter of trees. His Shepherd's Fennel's Dance is the one piece of his to survive although it's all well worth attention especially his Philomela and Berkshire Idyll. The Dance - based on an interlude from Hardy's Thomas Hardy's The Three Strangers - is jaunty and affecting with a bow in the direction of Tchaikovsky. Balfour Gardiner was a product of the RAM who tended to venerate the Russians rather than the German classics. Frederick Rosse’s Doge's March is portentous and brazen, full of overwheening confidence. All four movements of the Petite Suite de Concert are given here in the first recording since Sargent's HMV one in the 1950s. It remains a nicely put together suite despite my disparagement earlier. The style is somewhere between the regions of Elgar, Dvořák and Massenet.

There are no time-serving performances here. Everything is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Quite apart from being generously filled each of these discs has been adroitly planned. The alternation of mood is extremely well calculated.

The discs are garnished with Andrew Lamb's helpful commentary notes. When you have this set as a nostalgia trip Mr Lamb’s notes will point you in all the right directions. The only minor criticism here is that the sequence of the commentary on the works differs from the order of play on the CDs.

Corp and the NLO and Hyperion really have done an excellent job here so let’s not forget their American Light Music Classics CDA67067 and European Light Music Classics CDA66998.

So there you have it. Five hours and ten minutes of unstinting music for the price of four prestigiously presented, well thought-through and executed CDs. Golden nostalgia indeed and more to the point done in style and with a fidelity to a long departed but by many still cherished past. The music has already taken on new life and new uses such is its vitality. Not everything still works but most of it does and much still has the power to move. Riches indeed!

Rob Barnett

Volume 3

http://www.musicweb-international.com/film/2000/may00/britishlightmusic.htm
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2000/may00/british3.htm
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2000/may00/british3.htm
Volume 4

http://www.musicweb-international.com/film/2002/Oct02/British_Light_Musical_Classics_4.html
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2002/Sept02/BritishLightMusic4.htm
http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2002/Nov02/British_Light_Music4.htm

 



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