The Anglo-African composer
Coleridge-Taylor was once famed throughout
England for his work Hiawatha
– this alone of his many popular compositions
received performances at the Royal Albert
Hall every single year without fail
between 1924 and the start of the war
in 1939. Alas, this under-rated composer
is now one of a plethora who have fallen
from favour and recognition.
at the Royal College of Music under
Sir Charles Villiers Stanford - the
first work on this disc, the Legend,
dates from this period - and was first
conducted by Stanford. It is a lush
and romantic piece, extremely well performed,
and is followed by a tender rendition
of the Romance of two years later.
The main work on the
disc is the Violin Concerto.
This was commissioned by an American
philanthropist who had started up a
music festival in Connecticut, in which
several of Coleridge-Taylor’s works
had been performed. The philanthropist
had wanted some old American tunes included
in the concerto, but was dissatisfied
with the end result; Coleridge-Taylor
obliged by incorporating the spiritual
Many Thousands Gone, and also
Yankee Doodle in the concerto.
Coleridge-Taylor admitted this didn’t
really work and consequently re-wrote
the entire concerto. The premiere of
the new version was given back at the
music festival in Connecticut – but
only just, since the score and parts
had been sent over on the fateful voyage
of the Titanic and replacement parts
only just reached the players in time!
The opening movement is soulful and
dramatic, Lorraine McAslan invests the
second with a wistful air, and the work
concludes with a spectacular Finale,
the London Philharmonic Orchestra under
Nicholas Braithwaite, and McAslan putting
heart and soul into the music.
Julius Harrison’s career
focused on conducting,
despite the fact that he won a prize
for his cantata Cleopatra in
his early twenties. He resuming composition
when deafness heralded the end of his
conducting, and then he completed works
such as a Mass and a Requiem. Bredon
Hill was written in 1941 and the
score was prefaced by Housman’s famous
lines "Here of a Sunday morning
…". It is beautifully played by
McAslan, who invests it with great lyricism,
sweetness and intensity. The bells at
the end are particularly effective and
moving. On the whole, it is evocative
and nostalgic music - very much "of
its time", but in the best possible
way, epitomising the charm of the period
beautifully, and it is excellently orchestrated.
McAslan plays with a lovely light touch
whilst maintaining a rich and warm tone.
France’s article about Harrison
and Bredon Hill)
of works that are well worth hearing.
Good old Lyrita!
See also reviews by John
France and Rob