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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


 

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Kosei Publishing Co.

 

 

The Best Of British, Vol. 2
Gustav HOLST (1874-1934)
First Suite in E flat op.28/1 (ed. Colin Matthews) (1909) [09:56]
Second Suite in F op.28/2 (ed. Colin Matthews) (1911) [11:28]
Frank BRIDGE (1879-1941)
The Pageant of London (ed. P. Hindmarsh) (1911) [13:17]
Frederic AUSTIN (1872-1952)
Music for the Pageant of London (ed. J. Lee-Browne/D. Bostock) (1911) [07:36]
Sir Arthur BLISS (1891-1975)
Checkmate – Suite (arr. Gerrard Williams) (1937): The Red Knight’s Mazurka [02:52], Funeral Procession of the Black Knight [02:10], Dance of the Four Knights [03:04]
Alan BUSH (1900-1995)
Scherzo op.68 (1969) [10:48]
Percy GRAINGER (1882-1961)
Irish Tune from County Derry (1911) [04:13]
Eric COATES (1886-1957)
The Dam Busters March (arr. W.J. Duthoit) (1954) [03:52]
Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra/Douglas Bostock
rec. 21-22 October 2004, Sun Azalea, Saitama, Japan
KOSEI PUBLISHING COMPANY KOCD-8012 [69:32] 



Readers are referred to my review of the first volume in this excellent series for a general introduction to its aims.

We start with a bang since Holst’s Suites are classics of the genre, quite remarkable demonstrations of the range of sonorities that a wind band can produce. I have always loved Boult’s recording (on Lyrita) of the March from the First Suite in Gordon Jacob’s orchestration, but I’m not sure that Bostock isn’t more exultant still, and of course he has the original instrumentation.

The Second Suite has remained a little less known. Holst himself did nothing to push it, maybe because he immediately rearranged the last movement for strings as the finale to the “St. Paul’s Suite”. The effect of his first thoughts is quite different for, while the “Dargason” and “Greensleeves” blend in easy dialogue in the string version, they work in exciting opposition on the wind band. The music sounds much more original in this form and perhaps I prefer it.

A more intensely “private”, retiring composer than Bridge could hardly be imagined, hardly the man to go to for pompous patriotic music to be played at the 1911 Pageant of London. For the most part he takes refuge in dead-pan professionalism. The Pavane uses a tune that later reappeared in Warlock’s “Capriol Suite” and the comparison only points to the fact that Bridge’s version is not much more than technically adept. Considerably more spirited is the concluding March which is arranged from an earlier organ piece and so not originally intended as patriotic fodder. Moreover, it acquires here an entertaining trio on the Westminster Chimes which isn’t in the organ original.

Another composer invited to contribute to the Pageant of London was Frederick Austin, a composer whom Bostock has been championing. He certainly seems more suited to the job than Bridge, though nothing particularly original emerges. Any memories this music may leave behind it are rapidly swept away by Bliss’s striking dances from “Checkmate”.

Every time I hear a work by Alan Bush (which is not often) I always hope it will be better than the last, but so far he has always appeared as drab and colourless as the East Germany he idolized. I’m afraid this overlong Scherzo is no exception.

Grainger’s well-known setting of “The Londonderry Air” brings a rare miscalculation from Bostock. At first I thought I was hearing an introduction and waited for the theme to enter, but then it crossed my mind that the theme enters immediately in this arrangement and I realized that it was there, played on the horn, but practically submerged by the other instruments. The Grimethorpe Band had it standing out much better in “Brassed Off”. Incidentally, Lewis Foreman’s note, giving the history of this melody, states that it was first published in 1855 in the Petrie Collection and then used by Stanford in his First Irish Rhapsody of 1902, the same year as Grainger’s first (choral) setting. He suggests that Grainger might have got it from Stanford. This is perfectly possible, but Stanford himself had already published an arrangement in Songs of Old Ireland of 1882 (the year Grainger was born), where it was called “Emer’s farewell to Cuchullain” and it was already quite well-known by 1902. So Grainger probably didn’t get it directly from Stanford but knew it already through Songs of Old Ireland. In any case, the frontispiece to Grainger’s piano setting seems clear enough: he acknowledges the 1855 Petrie publication, Songs of Old Ireland and also The Irish Song Book (ed. A.P. Graves, 1894), and requested that this information “be used in full in programs, where possible”.

The Dam-Busters March was an encore favourite with Boult and again, I have long enjoyed his Lyrita recording of it. This time I still prefer Boult, finding Bostock a notch too fast, if infectious, as a result of which he has to broaden out to much at the end. And in this case it is Boult who has the original instrumentation.

There are more ups and downs to this volume than the first but if you don’t have the Holst Suites in some other recording they are enough to make purchase essential and the performances are superb.

Christopher Howell

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Kosei Publishing Co.

 

 

 



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