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Eric COATES (1886-1957)
The Merrymakers Overture (1923) [4:28]; At The Dance (Summer Days Suite) (1919) [4:01]; The Man from the Sea (The Three Men Suite) (1935) [5:02]; March: Oxford Street (London Again Suite) (1936) [3:24]; The Three Bears (1926) [9:20]; By the Sleepy Lagoon (1930) [3:02]; March: Queen Elizabeth (The Three Elizabeths Suite) (1944) [5:48]
Arthur SULLIVAN (1842-1900)
Overtures: The Mikado (1884-5) [8:20]; The Yeoman of the Guard (1888) [4:50]; Iolanthe (1882) [7:23]; Ruddigore (1886-7) [6:22]
London Symphony Orchestra/Sir Charles Mackerras (Coates)
Philharmonia Orchestra/Sir Charles Mackerras (Sullivan)
rec. edited and adapted from the original EMI tapes of ‘Favourite Music of Eric Coates’ recorded in 1956-7 and ‘Sullivan Overtures’ recorded in 1957
VOCALION CDVS 1964 [62:50]

Experience Classicsonline


 
Back in the early 1980s I was fortunate to be asked by BBC Radio Sussex to write and produce a half hour programme on Eric Coates’ associations with the county of Sussex in the South of England. For that programme I interviewed the late Eric Coates’ wife and his sister-in-law, Mrs Joan Freeman. They said the composer enjoyed conducting his own music and had very decided views on the subject. He liked his music taken at lively and brisk tempi; he frowned on those conductors who made it sound slow and stodgy - there was nothing like that about him.
 
I include this comment at the beginning of this review because Charles Mackerras understood Coates’s attitude to his own music so well. The seven pieces on this disc are taken at really fast tempi giving an impression of joie de vivre. You are swept along by Mackerras’s exuberance and the LSO players clearly enjoy themselves immensely. One might be tempted at times, to feel this exuberance is perhaps a little over-stated - take Oxford Street for example - but it certainly is preferable to the propensity of some conductors to dawdle - and I have to say that I must include Sir Adrian Boult amongst them. These pieces are so well known and loved by admirers of light music (after all Eric Coates was affectionately known as ‘The King of Light Music’) that I think it is unnecessary to explain their background except to remind readers of Coates’ remarkable orchestration and harmonic skills. He was classically trained and attended London’s Royal Academy of Music at the same time as Arnold Bax and York Bowen and played viola in many London orchestras and ensembles. Highlights in Mackerras’s readings are the beauty of the violin solo in the infectious Three Bears, Mackerras’s jolly rendering of the Three Blind Mice fugue in The Man from the Sea, and the rousing Queen Elizabeth March (interestingly, taken slightly slower than Nabarro’s ASV recording) with its noble middle section very much influenced by Edward German. It should be mentioned that The Three Elizabeths was conceived when the present Queen was Princess Elizabeth and a young woman of 18 soon to serve in uniform. This third movement, march of The Three Elizabeths, although inspired by the then Princess Elizabeth was given the title of The Youth of Britain march.
 
Sir Charles was also well-known for his association with the music of Sir Arthur Sullivan, especially Sullivan’s collaborations with W.S. Gilbert. Best known, in this context are Mackerras’s arrangements of Sullivan’s music for the Gilbert and Sullivan-inspired comic ballet, Pineapple Poll. The four Overtures included here are delivered with verve and sparkle from the rollicking tune-filled Chinoiserie of The Mikado, to the pomposity, pathos and whimsicality of The Yeoman of the Guard to the delicacy, grace and effervescence of Iolanthe, and the jolly, spooky grotesqueries of Ruddigore.
 
Light music favourites cleanly transferred from mid-1950s LPs and delivered with great flamboyance and élan.
 
Ian Lace
 
 


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