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The Crown Imperial
Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Coronation March for George V (1911) (arr. Tom Higgins) [9.26]
The Crown of India celebrating George Vís Delhi Durbar Ė ĎMarchí (1912) (arr. Frank Winterbottom) [4.21]
Sir William WALTON (1902-1938)
Crown Imperial for George VI (1937) (arr. W.J. Duthoit) [8.11]
Orb and Sceptre for Elizabeth II (1953) (arr. Norman Richardson) [7.13]
Sir Arnold BAX (1883-1953)
Coronation March for Elizabeth II (1953) (arr. George Pollen) [6.25]
Sir Arthur BLISS (1891-1975)
Welcome the Queen for Elizabeth II in celebration of her Commonwealth tour (1954) (arr. W.J. Duthoit) [5.29]
Sir Edward GERMAN (1862-1936)
Coronation March for George V (1911) (arr. Dan Godfrey) [6.12]
Camille SAINT-SAňNS (1835-1921)
Marche du couronnement for Edward VII (1902) (arr. M. Retford) [6.35]
John Philip SOUSA (1854-1932)
March Ė Imperial Edward for Edward VII (1901) [2.30]
Sir Alexander MACKENZIE (1847-1935)
Coronation March for Edward VII (1901) (arr J. Mackenzie-Rogan) [6.46]
Percy GODFREY (1859-1945)
Coronation March for Edward VII (1901) (arr. Charles Godfrey) [4.47]
London Symphonic Concert Band/Tom Higgins
rec. St John the Evangelist, Upper Norwood, London, 20-21 July 2013
SOMM SOMMCD 0138 [69.11]

This is an interesting and imaginative concept, a mix of celebrated and little known and/or forgotten pieces composed for 20th century coronations. The mix shows commendable variety too in that the ear does not tire from an overindulgence of pomp.

The newly formed London Symphonic Concert Band of some fifty musicians has been assembled from leading symphony orchestras and concert and armed services bands. This is its first recording. All pieces except the Sousa March have been arranged for wind band.

The brief Imperial Edward March, composed by the American John Philip Sousa, was written for the new but yet uncrowned King Edward VI for performance when Sousa was invited to the Royal Sandringham estate - in Norfolk, England. It is a swaggering quick march full of thrust and energetic youthfulness. Saint-SaŽnsís Coronation March is appreciably longer, noble and more contemplative and a tad liturgical in character.

The remainder of the programme is given over to works by British composers.

Sir Alexander Mackenzie was Principal at Londonís Royal Academy of Music when it was in Tenterden Street. His quick march has an outdoor breezy flavour. I somehow associated it with either the Royal Navy or the Royal Air Force ó more with the latter. Eric Coates was welcomed into the Academy by Mackenzie and indeed, I felt I could detect a Mackenzie influence on Coatesí own marches.

Percy Godfreyís Coronation March was a winning entry in a public competition for ceremonial works. Godfrey was music master at Kingís School Canterbury. This marchís opening anticipates Waltonís Orb and Sceptre. Its trio section is softer, quieter and more intimate and might be thought of as suitable for weddings.

Considering the tenuous links of some of these pieces with Edward VIIís coronation but granted that Elgar contributed nothing to Edward VIIís Coronation Service, one might query why Elgarís Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 was not included. After all its theme was utilised in the grand final movement of the composerís Coronation Ode and the King, himself had suggested adding words to Elgarís majestic music. There would have been time to include a wind band arrangement. Nevertheless, two Elgar items are included here. His 1911 Coronation March is muted and solemn in character and Tom Higginsí arrangement seems to have over-accentuated that solemnity in its opening pages. The Crown of India march here is not the popular ĎMarch of the Mogul Emperorsí but a somewhat less memorable piece - a sort of sub-Pomp and Circumstance work but with a more appealing trio section.

Sir Edward German, so famous for his light operas Tom Jones and Merrie England, created a much more joyful and optimistic Coronation March with a lot more brio. Incidentally again I believe I detect a pre-echo of Eric Coates who was known to admire Germanís music.

Waltonís two celebrated Coronation Marches come off well with Crown Imperial, for the most part, having plenty of vigour and thrust; and Orb and Sceptre having a little cheeky syncopation and interesting jazzy inflections in this arrangement.

Arnold Bax, ever the escapist romantic dreamer of isolated Celtic locations rich in legend and prey to wild stormy seas, was never comfortable writing ceremonial music. This march demonstrates this discomfort Ė he even uses heroic music he originally wrote for the film Malta GC for this Coronation March, his final orchestral piece. He died in County Cork in the October of Elizabeth IIís coronation year. By contrast, Sir Arthur Blissís Welcome the Queen, celebrating Her Majestyís Commonwealth tour soon after her Coronation, is much more enthusiastic; itís thrilling and majestic.

A most interesting and adventurous collection.

Ian Lace