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Best of British Light Music
Richard ADDINSELL (1904-1977)
1. Theme from “Goodbye Mr Chips” (1939) [3:19] 2. Warsaw Concerto (1941) [9:06]
Sir Richard Rodney BENNETT (b.1936)
3. Theme and Waltz from “Murder on the Orient Express” [5:43]
Ronald BINGE (1910-1979)
4. The Watermill [3:46] 5. Elizabethan Serenade (1951) [3:39]
Eric COATES (1886-1957)
6. Sound and Vision (ATV March) (1955) [3:32] 7. Covent Garden (from “London Suite”) (1933) [5:13] 8. March “Calling All Workers” [3:26] 9. By the sleepy lagoon (1930) [3:46] 10. Dam Busters’ March [3:56]
Samuel COLERIDGE-TAYLOR (1875-1912)
11. Hiawatha Overture [11:24]
Anthony COLLINS (1893-1963)
12. Vanity Fair (1952) [3:43]
Frederick CURZON (1899-1973)
13. March of the Bowmen (from “Robin Hood Suite”) (1937) [4:51]
Trevor DUNCAN (b.1924)
14. High Heels [3:04]
Vivian ELLIS (1904-1996)
15. Coronation Scot (1938) [2:55]
Robert FARNON (1917-2005)
16. Melody Fair [2:51] 17. Colditz March [3:08]
Sir Edward GERMAN (1862-1936)
18. Sophia’s Waltz-Song from “Tom Jones” (1907) [3:07]
Ron GOODWIN (1925-2003)
19. Theme from “633 Squadron” [2:57]

20. Country Gardens [2:05]
Anthony HEDGES

21. Overture “Heigham Sound” (1978) [5:39]

22. “In a Persian Market” (1921) [5:34]
23. “In a Monastery Garden” [5:15]
Billy MAYERL (1902-1959)
24. Marigold (1927) [3:58]

25. A Children’s Overture [11:09]

26. A Little Serenade (1955) [3:23]
27. Shenandoah [3:53]
Sidney TORCH
28. Shortcake Walk (1952) [2:17] 29. All Strings and Fancy Free [3:32]
Geoffrey TOYE
30. Concert Waltz “The Haunted Ballroom” (1935) [6:59]
Edward WHITE (1910-1994)
31. Puffin’ Billy” [3:02]
Haydn WOOD (

32. Serenade to Youth (1954) [2:45]
Bill WORLAND (b.1921)
33. Millennium – A Celebration March (2000) [4:30]
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (4,5,7,8,9,10,13,14,16,17,18,20,22,23,24,25,26,27,32); Adrian Leaper (conductor) (7,8,9,10,13,16,17,18,22,23,25,32), Ernest Tomlinson (conductor) (4,5,26,27), Keith Brion (conductor) (20), Gary Carpenter (conductor) (24), Andrew Penny (conductor) (14): Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (6); Paul Murphy (conductor) (6); RTE Concert Orchestra (2,3,11,12,15,30,31,33); Ernest Tomlinson (conductor) (12,15,30,31), Gavin Sutherland (conductor) (33), Proinnsias O’Duinn (conductor) (2,3), Adrian Leaper (conductor) (11); RTE Sinfonietta (21); Anthony Hedges (conductor) (21); BBC Concert Orchestra (1,28,29); Barry Wordsworth (conductor) (28,29), Kenneth Alwyn (1); New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (19), Ron Goodwin (conductor) (19); Philip Fowke (piano) (2,3)
rec. no information given
NAXOS 8.570575-76 [75:51 + 74:19] 


Inevitably these discs are samplers for the Marco Polo and Naxos CDs from which all the items come. The numbers of the source discs are set out in the helpful notes. More importantly this set serves as a good advertisement for the genre. I am sure that no two people would agree as to which pieces really are “The Best of British Light Music”, but some at least of those chosen would be likely to appear on most lists. Indeed, if the discs are to appeal to those who already own similar compilations or some of the original CDs from which the items come, there is a need for novelties as well as the familiar favorites which inevitably predominate. The main novelties for me were Anthony Hedges’ “Heigham Sound”, Bill Worland’s “Millennium” and Coleridge-Taylor’s Overture to “Hiawatha”. The last of these is strongly derived from Dvořák, and is thus in a wholly different idiom from the rest of the programme. I was however glad to hear it, and the other pieces new to me. I have no doubt that overall the discs give an enjoyable overview of the genre, even if the lack of Edwardian waltzes and the marches of Kenneth Alford may seem inexplicable to some.

There is however a problem in the way in which the music is laid out across the two discs. They are not grouped by composer, as set out above, by date, by theme or by any other obvious method. Instead they seem to be either taken at random or to fall into small groups of very similar pieces. For instance in succession we get “Vanity Fair”, “The Watermill” and “A Little Serenade”, which merely emphasises their somewhat derivative qualities. Similarly following “Calling all workers” with “Coronation Scot” and the “Colditz March” is simply too much of a good thing. Maybe some listeners will be happy to listen to groups of similar pieces in quick succession, but for me this draws attention to their occasionally formulaic nature and does not show them to best advantage.

The performances are all relatively recent, with the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra having the main share under a variety of conductors. Their performances are never less than workmanlike, but I do sometimes miss that indefinable sense of style which we can hear on the reissues of earlier performances on Naxos or Guild or Dutton. In particular, for instance, Eric Coates when conducting his own music imbued it with much greater energy and character. The Slovak Orchestra are no slower in a piece like “Calling all workers” but they do not articulate the clipped rhythms typical of the period. Perhaps only an orchestra able to recall the clipped speech of “Brief Encounter” can match those earlier performances. “Historically informed performance” is just as desirable in music of this period as in that of earlier centuries, and it is in many ways a pity that Naxos have not taken their Eric Coates tracks from their own excellent historical reissues of the composer conducting. This applies also in the case of Ketèlbey, where the wonderfully coarse sounding choruses he used in these pieces have so much more character than the admirably disciplined Slovak singers.

The performances on these discs are never less than workmanlike, and in many cases they are much more than that. Those by the RTE Concert Orchestra conducted by Ernest Tomlinson are of especial merit and Philip Fowke does his best to make the ersatz heroics of the Warsaw Concerto acceptable. Many groups and places were involved in these recordings and it is to the credit of Naxos that they achieve such high standards overall.

These discs could have been better in terms of their choice of music and the order in which they are placed, but they remain a very attractive purchase. I would not want the shortcomings I have described to put off anyone wanting to get an idea of the very real merits of the genre or of the Naxos/Marco Polo contributions. 

John Sheppard 




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