Roderick ELMS (b. 1951)
Concertino for Celesta (Capriccietto [3:17]; Cantilena [3:08]; Finale [1:53])
Four Seasonal Nocturnes (A Little Fall-ish! [2:33]; The Horn in Winter [3:26]; The Well Sprung Horn [2:13]; Little Horn in the Sun [5:10])
Cygncopations - Reverie et Danse for cor anglais and chamber orchestra
Chiarore del Mare [4:54]
El Paean [5:17]
Elegie [2:53]
Gazelle [2:57]
Il Cygnet [4:12]
Fandango Fantastico [5:15]
Back to Bach (Sinfonia [3:58]; Aria H [4:35]; Gigue [3:23])
Roderick Elms (celesta, piano), Andrew Nicholson (flute), Martin Owen (horn), Suzanne Willison (harp), Alistair Young (celesta), Victoria Walpole (cor anglais), Victoria Green (guitar), Stephen Quigley (vibraphone), Janice Graham (violin), Stuart Nicholson (organ)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Stephen Bell
rec. Temple Church, London, 15-16 August 2005 (1-15); St John's, Smith Square, London, 31 July 2006 (16-18). DDD
DUTTON EPOCH CDLX 7175 [66.13]

Roderick Elms studied at the Royal Academy of Music and works primarily as a principal keyboard player and soloist for orchestras such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and BBC Concert Orchestra. He writes pleasant and accessible music, without resource to atonality or contemporary dissonances or terseness. He is clearly influenced by both film music and light music, with both of which his own compositions share many features. These include richness and lushness of orchestral sound, tunefulness and a lightness of rhythm and touch.

This disc opens with the Concertino for Celesta, which was composed with the intent of making the general public more aware of the instrument. The charming first movement Capriccietto is rather reminiscent of Malcolm Arnold, the second movement Cantilena is more lyrical and romantic and the finale is light and dancing - Elms himself is a powerful advocate as the soloist.

The Four Seasonal Nocturnes follow - skilfully and characterfully evocative works, and good showpieces for Martin Owen on the solo horn. The final Nocturne, Little Horn in the Sun, is described by the composer in his excellent sleeve-notes as “an impression of sunrise”, and it is suitably atmospheric.

Cygnopations ensues, and paints a picture of a swan - as the word-play in the title would indicate - gliding smoothly over the water in Reverie, whilst the Danse is jazzier and more up-beat. The solo cor anglais is energetically played by Victoria Walpole, for whom the work was written.

Although the Chiarore del Mare – describing a translucent light seen from sea at dawn – was composed for electric violin and chamber orchestra, it is here nonetheless played with a traditional violin, accompanied by the radiant string section of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

A seemingly inappropriately entitled Paean follows – surprisingly joyful and lively with a virtuosic organ solo, here impressively played by Stuart Nicholson. Elegy, written at the time of the composer’s father’s death, is a moving little piece with references to the beautiful Irish folksong She moved through the Fair. The composer plays the piano solo in this, as for the following work, Gazelle.

Swans are yet again linked with the cor anglais in Il Cygnet, while Fandango Fantastico was written as a wedding present for two friends of the composer – the organist Stuart Nicholson and guitarist Victoria Green. Played by the couple here, it proves an inventive and interesting work.

The disc concludes with Back to Bach, based on the opening of Bach’s 29th cantata, the Sinfonia from Cantata 156 and the Fugue a la Gigue. Whereas the first two movements are basically Bach arrangements for orchestra and piano, in the final movement, Gigue, Elms gives a freer rein to his imagination.

On the whole this is attractive, unashamedly light, tonal and romantic music. Well-orchestrated, but ephemeral and eclectic, it has little substance, meaning or intent further than that – merely to please the ear. The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is conducted by Elms’ close colleague, Stephen Bell, in committed and convincing performances.

Em Marshall

Attractive, unashamedly light, tonal and romantic music.