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Great Christmas Classics
Great Scottish Classics

Great Viennese Classics
Great Irish Classics
City of Glasgow Philharmonic Orchestra, Iain Sutherland
Full details in the review DDD
REL/RIVER RECORDS

Experience Classicsonline


Great Christmas Classics
Leroy ANDERSON (1908 - 1975) Christmas Festival (1950) [7:05]
Sleigh Ride (1948) [3:14]
Iain SUTHERLAND (b.1938) Copenhagen Carnival [2:58]
Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 - 1893) Suite: The Nutcracker, op.71a (1891) [18:01]
John IRELAND (1879 - 1961) The Holy Boy (1913 - 1941) [3:03]
Johann STRAUSS II (1825 - 1899) Champagne Polka, op.211 [2:19]
Leroy ANDERSON Song of the Bells (1952) [3:28]
J S BACH (1685 - 1750)/Charles GOUNOD (1818 - 1893) Ave Maria [4:50]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891 - 1953) Troika (Lt Kij-, op.60 (1933)) [2:59]
Eric COATES (1887 - 1956) The Three Bears (1926) [9:45]
Iain SUTHERLAND Amazing Grace Anthem [3:01]
City of Glasgow Philharmonic Orchestra, Iain Sutherland
Recording details not given DDD
REL/RIVER RECORDS RECD 564 [61:06]

Great Scottish Classics
Iain SUTHERLAND (b.1938) Fanfare for St Andrew's Night [0:33]
The Black Bear Salute [3:43]
Robert DOCKER (1918 - 1992) Abbey Craig [2:48]
Arthur BLAKE Take the High Road (the STV theme) [3:01]
Iain SUTHERLAND Amazing Grace Anthem [3:09]
Granville BANTOCK (1868 - 1946) Kishmul's Galley (Heroic Ballad) [4:35]
George McIIWHAM Alba: Fanfare Salute [7:35]
Kenneth J ALFORD (1881 - 1945) The Thin Red Line (Regimental March of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) (1908) [2:48]
Ernest TOMLINSON (b.1924) Cumberland Square [3:13]
Iain SUTHERLAND Dunvegan Castle [3:45]
Robert FARNON (1917 - 2005) From the Highlands [9:17]
Hamish MacCUNN (1868 - 1916) The Land of the Mountain and the Flood, op.3 (1886) (Sutherland's Law title theme) - arranged by Iain SUTHERLAND [3:48]
Robert DOCKER Fairy Dance Reel [2:42]
Alexander C MacKENZIE (1847 - 1935) Benedictus, op.37/3 (1888) [7:12]
Ian WHYTE (1901 - 1961) Devil's Finale/Reel O-Tulloch [6:14]
City of Glasgow Philharmonic Orchestra, Iain Sutherland
Recording details not given DDD
REL/RIVER RECORDS RECD 563 [64:51]

Great Viennese Classics
Richard HEUBERGER (1850 - 1914) Overture: The Opera Ball (1898) [7:48]
Johann STRAUSS I (1804 - 1849) Radetsky March, op.228 (1848) [3:04]
Eduard STRAUSS (1835 - 1916) Anvil Polka [3:01]
Johann STRAUSS II (1825 - 1899) Overture: Die Fledermaus (1874) [9:04]
Josef STRAUSS (1827 - 1870) Chatterbox Polka, op.245 (1868) [3:04]
Josef and Johann STRAUSS II Pizzicato Polka (-) [2:19]
Johann STRAUSS II Champagne Polka, op.211 [2:19]
Eduard STRAUSS Clear Track Polka, op.45 [2:03]
Josef STRAUSS The Dragonfly, Polka/Mazurka, op.204 (1866) [4:16]
Johann STRAUSS II Trisch Trasch Polka, op.214 (1858) [2:48]
Salute the Magyars Polka, op.332 [2:22]
Thunder and Lightening Polka, op.324 (1868) [3:10]
Bandit Galop, op.378 (1877) [2:58]
Perpetuum Mobile, op.257 [3:04]
Blue Danube Waltz, op.314 (1867) [10:21]
City of Glasgow Philharmonic Orchestra, Iain Sutherland
Recording details not given DDD
REL/RIVER RECORDS RECD 565 [66:13]

Great Irish Classics
Leroy ANDERSON (1908 - 1975) Irish Suite (1947/1949) [7:07]
Peter HOPE (b.1930) Jaunting Car (Ring of Kerry Suite) (1961) [2:24]
Percy GRAINGER (1882 - 1961) Molly on the Shore (1907/1914) [4:05]
Hamilton HARTY (1879 - 1941) The Fair Day (An Irish Symphony) [3:25]
Peter HOPE The Lark in the Clear Air [3:16]
Leroy ANDERSON Horse and Buggy (1951) [4:05]
Percy GRAINGER Shepherd's Hey (1908/1909 - 1913) [2:02]
Peter HOPE Cockles and Mussels [4:17]
J S BACH (1685 - 1750)/Charles GOUNOD (1818 - 1893) Ave Maria [4:50]
Peter HOPE Killorgan Fair (Ring of Kerry Suite) (1961) [3:07]
Leroy ANDERSON Chicken Reel (1946) [3:09]
Peter HOPE Lilliburlero [3:20]
Shaun DAVEY (b.1948) Reel - Briochan and Columba (The Pilgrim) (1983) [2:58]
City of Glasgow Philharmonic Orchestra, Iain Sutherland
Recording details not given DDD
REL/RIVER RECORDS RECD 566 [58:38]

These disks derive from the Pops At The Philharmonic concerts held in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall which were given by the City of Glasgow Philharmonic and they represent, if I may quote a well known figure from nearby Edinburgh, the créme de la créme of those live shows. They consist of some teriffic light music, are intelligently planned, and they complement, perfectly, all other series of light music recordings which have appeared over the past few years - both new and re-issues.

Leroy Anderson's Christmas Festival (is there any event that he didn't write a piece for?) makes a good start for this carnival of Christmas music but the following Sleigh Ride is better and, in this performance, the appearance of stride trombones is utterly hilarious. His Song of the Bells is a waltz in the modern manner, with a bit of naughty swing in the middle of the kind you'd expect from Alec Wilder!

Sutherland's own Copenhagen Carnival is a marvellous piece of whimsy and it's good to hear The Nutcracker Suite in this context for it fits perfectly and seems all the more charming because of it. Ireland's The Holy Boy isn't the kind of piece which would immediately spring to mind for this kind of concert but it's lovely to hear it in a no-nonsense, unsentimental way, and to follow it with Strauss's Champagne Polka, shows the sacred and profane sitting side by side in perfect harmony!

It's a great delight to welcome Eric Coates's Fantasy The Three Bears into this collection, for it is not one of his best known works and one wonders why. Starting with a musical phrase which represents the words -who's been sleeping in my bed-- the composer builds a movement which is occasionally reminiscent of his younger contemporary Constant Lambert, but none the worse for that, and is generally racy and fun.

For the rest Ave Maria and the Amazing Grace Anthem appear elsewhere, but their charm cannot be denied here, and the ever popular Troika really makes its mark. A delightful stocking filler which can be enjoyed the year round.

The Great Scottish Classics album starts with a brief fanfare by the conductor which is followed by an exciting arrangement of The Black Bear Salute, complete with pipes. This is very exhilarating. Sutherland's Amazing Grace Anthem uses massed pipes and orchestra. I assume that this tune has been granted a Scottish connection because it was made into a number 1 hit in 1972, by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards - it sold over 7,000,000 copies and was awarded a gold disc. Sutherland's original composition Dunvegan Castle is an imposing musical picture, full of longing and wistfulness.

Sutherland's Law was a TV series, made by BBC Scotland, which ran from 1973 to 1976 and it used an excerpt from Hamish MacCunn's marvellous Overture, The Land of the Mountain and the Flood as its title theme. I wonder if this is where this lovely work's popularity started. Here we have an arrangement, by Sutherland, of the second subject of the work, what a tune it is!, and despite being a mere moment from the complete work, it retains all the verve and liveliness of the complete piece.

Robert Docker was a Londoner but here, in Abbey Craig he supplies a brilliant reel, and the Fairy Dance Reel continues the revelry. This is what light music is all about! Arthur Blake's theme for the TV series Take the High Road (it ran on national TV from 1980 to 1993 and a further 10 years on Scottish Television) is a lovely piece of Celtic nostalgia. Granville Bantock's Kishmul's Galley (Heroic Ballad) is a strangely subdued affair, but it's good to have it here, as a sobering influence in the midst of much good natured music.

George Mcllwham's Alba: Fanfare Salute is a romp with solo for pipes in the middle - the composer is a well known piper himself - and it turns out to be a rather good tone poem. Kenneth Alford's The Thin Red Line was written when the composer was made Bandmaster to the Band of the 2nd Battalion of the Argyyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The colonel asked for a new regimental march and Alford responded with this piece, based on two bars of the regiment's bugle call. It sounds well in its full orchestral clothing. For all fans of light music, the name of Ernest Tomlinson will always feature as the doyen of the genre. Cumberland Square is a brilliantly conceived and executed miniature tone poem.

Robert Farnon's From the Highlands is a gambol through several well known Scottish tunes - Comin- Through the Rye, My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose, The Bonnie Banks o' Loch Lomond (these two providing a wistfulness to counter the boisterous outer sections) and The Keel Row (Northumbrian, but so what?) to name but a few. It's brilliantly orchestrated and constructed, as you'd expect with this composer, and I wonder why it's taken so long for it to reach a recording.

Alexander C MacKenzie's Benedictus is a simple melody, devout and full of fervour. The violins get to shine here. Not wishing to insult anyone whose work is included on this disk, I have to say that the best has been kept for last. The name of Ian Whyte is, for many, merely that of a conductor, the founder of the BBC Scottish Orchestra and its chief conductor for 15 years. But he was also a composer and his large output is mainly based on Scottish subjects. Devil's Finale/Reel O-Tulloch is an older kind of riot of song and dance, compared to some of the pieces here recorded, but it's no less valid for all that. Like all the music on this disk it's brilliantly scored and really packs a punch. For pure pleasure this disk is hard to beat.


Not being a devotee of the Strauss family, the Great Viennese Classics disk was a delight to me, not least because it contains some items which I'd never heard before - such as the Anvil Polka, Chatterbox Polka and The Dragonfly. There's a real exuberant feel to these pieces and Sutherland and his players have the right party spirit for the dances. Best of all, however, are the four big works, the waltz, the march and the overtures. Heuberger's The Opera Ball Overture is a slightly laboured piece of work and no matter how hard the musicians try they cannot hide this fact, but high spirits reign in the jovial account of the Radetsky March, complete with audience clap-along. My favourites are the Overture to Die Fledermaus - a piece, which in the right hands, cannot fail to entertain - and The Blue Danube - which is the real winner here. If Sutherland doesn't quite have that special spring in his beat which the great JB brought to these piece then that is no fault of his, and these performances are most enjoyable. My one complaint here is that the acoustic is different from the acoustic on the other disks in the series and, at the start, it sounds like a large empty hall, which it obviously isn't! But the ear adjusts and after a couple of tracks it won't be noticeable. With such lovingly directed performances this disk cannot fail.

The Great Irish Classics disk is fascinating for there are only two works written by Irishmen, yet all the music is as Irish as you could wish. Leroy Anderson's Irish Suite is a five movement composition which contrasts riotousness - the first movement, The Irish Washerwoman - with calm and serenity - the second movement The Minstrel Boy. You cannot fail but to take it to your heart. This is Anderson at his very best and most entertaining. Anderson's Horse and Buggy and hilarious Chicken Reel add to the enjoyment.

I am always happy to welcome the music of Peter Hope on disk - there's far too little of him available - and the five pieces here recorded show him at his best; two movements from the marvellous Ring of Kerry Suite and three arrangements. Percy Grainger's Molly on the Shore and Shepherd's Hey are given in their full orchestral clothing - and how well they work this way - and Hamilton Harty's The Fair Day is a breezy affair.

The disk ends with an excerpt from Shaun Davey's The Pilgrim - a large'scale work which has been recorded complete by the same forces as here, with various soloists and choruses (Tara 3032) and Davey's Relief of Derry Symphony for pipe, reed and concert bands with organ, uilleann pipes, saxophone, vocalist and orchestra is available on Tara 3024 and should, on no account, be missed. Davey is one of the best of the younger Irish composers who are using traditional forms and instruments in their compositions. This short excerpt is a thrilling introduction to Davey's work and will, I am sure, make you want to hear more. The only thing missing is the sound of the audience going wild at the end! I am sure that it did. My one question is exactly what does Gounod's arrangement of J S Bach's 1st Prelude from the 48 have to do with Great Irish Classics- And isn't Shepherd's Hey based on an English dance tune- Should I care- Perhaps. Do I care- Not a bit because this is a thoroughly enjoyable disk and if you only want one of the series this is the one to choose, simply for its exuberance and good feeling. You'll return to it again and again.

Throughout the performances are first rate, Sutherland really knows how to get the best from his players, and the sound is very good, but I wish that some applause had been left on the disks - with a couple of brief exceptions, only the first contains the audience reaction - for these are live performances and one feels the anticipation and excitement of the audience but one never enjoys, or is able to share, the release after great music-making. There are no notes but who needs them when the music speaks so clearly to you-- The créme de la créme- Without a doubt.

The good news is that Sutherland has told me that a disk of English music is currently being prepared and there is also a disk of Hollywood to come. Riches indeed.

Bob Briggs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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