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The British Light Music Collection 1
CD1
Sir Malcolm ARNOLD (1921-2006)
The Roots Of Heaven
– Overture (1958) [5:03]
William ALWYN (1905-1985)
Suite of Scottish Dances
(The Indian Queen; A Trip to Italy; Colonel Thornton's Strathspey; The Perthshire Hunt – Reel; Loch Earn – Reel; Carleton House; Miss Ann Carnegie's Hornpipe) (1946) [6:37]
Sir Malcolm SARGENT (1895-1967)
An Impression on a Windy Day
(1927) [7:14]
Clifton PARKER (1905-1989)
The Glass Slipper
– Overture [3:37]
James LANGLEY (1927-1994)
The Coloured Counties
[5:52]
Gordon JACOB (1895-1984)
The Barber of Seville Goes to the Devil
Overture [4:29]
Maurice JOHNSTONE (1900-1976)
Tarn Hows
- A Cumbrian Rhapsody (1949) [13:56]
Alan LANGFORD (b.1928)
Two Worlds
- Overture [5:11]
Sir Richard Rodney BENNETT (b.1936)
Little Suite
(The Bird's Lament; The Widow Bird; The Ladybird; Glow-worms; The Lark) (1965) [9:49]
David LYON (b.1938)
Joie De Vivre
- Overture (1972) [6:50]
CD2
Malcolm ARNOLD (1921-2006)
Little Suite No.4
, Op.80a (orch. Lane) (Prelude; Siciliano; Rondo) (1963) [7:30]
William BLEZARD (b. 1921)
The River
(1969) [6:11]
Adrian CRUFT (1921-1987)
Traditional Hornpipe Suite
(Newcastle and Navvie; Irish; Del Caro's; Oak Hill; Fisher's; Billy Bones) [7:04]
Eric FENBY (1906-1997)
Rossini On Ilkla Moor
- Overture (1938) [6:35]
Raymond WARREN (b.1928)
Wexford Bells - Suite on Old Irish Tunes
(1970) (Shepherds' Dance'; Lute Book Lullaby; Christmas Jig; Wexford Bells) [10:30]
Arthur BUTTERWORTH (b.1923)
The Path Across The Moors
(1958) [6:39]
Anthony HEDGES (b. 1931)
An Ayrshire Serenade
, Op.42 (1971) (Allegro moderato; Andantino; Molto vivace) [10:08]
Paul LEWIS (b.1943)
An English Overture
(1971) [5:25]
Philip LANE (b.1950)
Suite of Cotswold Folk Dances
(1978) (Wheatly Processional; Constant Billy; Brighton Camp; Jockie to the Fair; Ladies of Pleasure; Princess Royal) [11:40]
Royal Ballet Sinfonia/Kenneth Alwyn; Gavin Sutherland
rec. Whitfield Street Studios, London, 1-2 April 1998; 24 June, 15 September 1999. DDD
RESONANCE CDRSB205 [70:11 + 74:08]



Resonance now set about reissuing the munificent ASV British light music anthology catalogue. Things start very well indeed with this slimline double; the first of three.
 
The Roots of Heaven overture is from Arnold's store of film music. It's vintage stridingly romantic stuff (2:33) and has never been heard to such good advantage not even in the hands of Carl Davis who revived it on radio as part of a BBC Radio 3 British film music series back in the early 1990s. Splendid stuff - some of it softly jazzy and some African exotic. Gold ebullience from Arnold.  Next some Scottish Dances but not from Arnold. This time it's a seven movement suite of pastiche Handelian Scottishry with a good humoured kick, skirl and intake of breath - liberally soused in uisge-bheatha. Colonel Thornton's Strathspey is affectingly romantic while Carelton House is a Mozartian wind cassation. The movements are fleeting miniatures - never outstaying their welcome.
 
Whether we can really call Sargent's reputation-famous Impression on a Windy Day ‘light music’ I am not sure. Its language owes something to Glazunov's Seasons but it's still exhilarating. Clifton Parker's film music has a Chandos CD all to itself. Here we have the micro-overture The Glass Slipper which flickers enchantingly along and makes one want to hear the children's operetta to which it is the prelude. It fleetingly recalls Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony. James Langley's Bredon Hill contributes honourably and with a little magic - perhaps more to be extracted if taken at a slower gait. Gordon Jacob the symphonist has been to the fore again recently with the new Lyrita CD of his two wartime symphonies. His The Barber of Seville Goes to the Devil is a clever romp through some vary familiar Rossini material. Britten was not the only one to triumph in this material.
 
The single most extended piece of music in this collection is Maurice Johnstone's poetic-nostalgic hymn to the water and landscape between Hawkshead and Coniston. For my money this deserves to be counted in the company of the Moeran, Patrick Hadley, Bridge, RVW, Butterworth pastoral-orchestral pieces. It is not light music - magnificently evocative certainly - but far from inconsequential. It stands tall in this company. Time we heard a lot more Johnstone. Not convinced - then listen to Tarn Hows and hear that tender and treasurable lyrical spell spun and stretched by a great melody at 4.23.
 
Alan Langford's Two Worlds Overture does the brilliant ‘splits’ between Copland, Arnold and Mozart. Richard Rodney Bennett's mid-1960s Little Suite takes some children's songs he had written and arranges them with a gentle and kindly hand for full orchestra. At the same time it conjures up the essence of English countryside idylls. Light on the aural palate.
 
David Lyon's Joie de Vivre overture is based on an early clarinet sonata. It at times recalls Rawsthorne's two concert overtures married with the English Dances of Malcolm Arnold.
 
The second CD kicks off with Arnold's Little Suite No. 4: is the orchestral reworking of his own Little Suite No. 1 for brass band. In the original Arnold pays stormy tribute to Holst's two brass suites. The memorable Siciliano is superbly swayed and I think works here better than in the original. William Blezard was a very fine composer - a pupil of Howells and Jacob at the RCM. It is a more than usually honeyed ech of Howells that we hear in Blezard's romantic overture The River where two lovers meet by its waters which chime in with their lyrically evoked mood. Adrian Cruft in his Traditional Hornpipe Suite takes us back to the Handelian frolics of the Alywn Dances. In fact these micro-short movements would fit well across the two suites.  

Fenby's Rossini on Ilkla Moor is another of those overtures beloved of the conductor stalwarts of the BBC's long-defunct Matinee Musicale. It’s Rossini meets Ilkla Moor with lolling eyes, a wink and a wobbly gait and of course that crescendo. Raymond Warren's suite was the outcome of a commission from the BBC Northern Ireland Light Orchestra; another victim of yet another cuts exercise. Again there is pastiche air to this music - Capriol is suggested in the first movement. The liquid cor anglais carol of the Lute Book Lullaby provides much needed delight in the face of some Graingerian heartiness.
 
Arthur Butterworth's The Path Across the Moors is redolent of the music of his own heroes: Bax and Sibelius. It is one of the most accomplished and serious pieces in the collection; vying with the Johnstone in this respect.  This is probably  Butterworth's most played piece. It really is time we had recordings of all Butterworth's impressively sombre symphonies, not to mention his violin concerto and cello concerto. This piece is strongly atmospheric music and should be heard yet more often.
 
Hedges' Ayrshire Serenade was commissioned by the Ayrshire Symphony Orchestra. It is not specially Scottish - more closely echoing the light and the dark of Ayr's scenery - some of it in Sibelian desolation - at least in the central movement. There is a touch of all-purpose English celebration in the finale but it's skilled and personable writing. An English Overture is Brighton-born Paul Lewis's raucous and rambunctious carousal. Make no mistake there's a pint or three being taken here among the jostle of hornpipes.
 
Philip Lane's Suite of Cotswold Dances cannot resist the siren call of Malcolm Arnold - whose style is touched on time and again among the composers' represented on this set. Listen to the start of Constant Billy for example - never mind the red-cheeked brassy stuff in Jockie to the Fair. Mind you Constant Billy, Ladies of Pleasure and Brighton Camp have a lovely Celtic lilt as well. Philip Lane says farewell with a tripping hornpipe in Princess Royal. Lane also provides the concise notes for this set. The suite was premiered in 1978 by Sidney Sager and the Bristol Sinfonia - who contributed to my musical education while a law student in Bristol in the early 1970s. Good to see their name again.
 
Having missed most of these discs first time around I am hoping to catch the reissues. Roll on RSB206 and RSB207. This is well worth the outlay – light music of euphoria and contentment.
 
Rob Barnett
 



 


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