I was sadly disappointed by this disc of British music for concert
band. Despite presenting a glorious programme of Holst, Vaughan
Williams and Grainger, it offers performances which lack conviction.
The half-hearted, rather anaemic and almost apologetic playing
from the Central Band of the Royal Air Force results in a sound
that is deficient not in volume but in energy. The incisiveness
of the interpretation suffers, too, on account of the rather
less-than-crisp ensemble – the opening of Molly on the Shore,
for example, is, regrettably, messy. Unfortunately, suspect
intonation also mars the overall impression, and split and overblown
notes have somehow been allowed to slip through the net of the
editing process. The poor sense of ensemble is particularly
apparent in Grainger’s Irish Tune from County Derry and
Country Gardens – although the latter does capture at
least an air of high spirits.
There is an enjoyable swagger to the opening of the March
of Holst’s First Suite – a shame, though, that this doesn’t
really carry over to the first movement of the Second Suite.
The second subject of this movement, when it recurs tutti,
needs much more sense of grandiosity. The Fantasia on the
‘Dargason’ needs a greater sense of fun. I look for exuberance,
energy or vitality in vain.
The percussion section’s lack of unity with the rest of the
ensemble is often highlighted to a quite embarrassing extent:
they play behind the beat far more often than should be acceptable.
This may be as a result of playing, during the sessions, in
a separate booth; but, if so, sufficient thought should have
been given to this problem during rehearsals and adequate advice
and practice given.
Sadly, this is a disc that does little credit either to the
performers or to the music. This is an especially poignant matter
for regret, given that in the booklet notes conductor Eric Banks
recalls a inscription from Percy Grainger to the band, which
mentions “their magnificent rendering of my music”.
See also review by John