Overtures from the British Isles - Volume 2
Sir William WALTON (1902 - 1983)
Portsmouth Point (1924-25) [5.33]
Walter LEIGH (1905 - 1942)
Agincourt (1935) [12.20]
York BOWEN (1884 – 1961)
Fantasy Overture, Op.115 (1945) [8.27]
Dame Ethel SMYTH (1858 -1944)
Overture to ‘The Boatswain’s Mate’ (1913 -1914) [6.05]
John ANSELL (1874 - 1948)
Plymouth Hoe (1914) [7.57]
Sir Alexander Campbell MACKENZIE (1847 – 1935)
Britannia, Op. 52 (1894) [7.37]
Eric COATES (1886 – 1957)
The Merrymakers (1923) [4.54]
Sir Charles Hubert Hastings PARRY (1848 – 1918)
Overture to an Unwritten Tragedy (1893, rev. 1894, 1905) [12.29]
Roger QUILTER (1877 – 1953)
A Children’s Overture, Op. 17 (1911 -19) [10.50]
John FOULDS (1880 – 1939)
Le Cabaret, Op. 72a (c. 1921, rev. 1934)
BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Rumon Gamba
rec. BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, 2– 4 December 2015
CHANDOS CHAN10898 [81.18]

Ian Lace named this as a Recording of the Month, and I find little reason to disagree with his judgement. It is excellent value at over 81 minutes and a wonderful reminder not only of the range of British composers, especially in the earlier decades of the twentieth century, who consistently produced attractive music of the highest quality, but also of the many nautical references made in lighter music. Gilbert and Sullivan (and Henry Wood) did not have a monopoly on the use of nautical tunes. Mackenzie’s Britannia would make a wonderful piece for the Last Night of the Proms.

This is a well-planned programme. Only the Fantasy Overture of York Bowen is a first recording, and, enjoyable though it is, adds very little to our understanding of that increasingly recorded composer. It would be good if his works made their way more frequently into Britain’s concert halls. The value of this CD, which I enjoyed even more than its fine companion with the same forces [CHAN 10797] lies in the way it has brought together these works into a thoughtful and well-planned programme. My only slight disappointment was the Foulds overture, which seemed to me – though it may not to others – a bit lightweight as a concluding piece. The Parry and Mackenzie Overtures also appear on David Lloyd-Jones’ recording – with the English Northern Philharmonia – of Victorian Concert Overtures on a Helios recording (CDH55088). I would not wish to be without either recording, but the new one, for me, wins in these pieces by a short head, in terms of character and recording quality.

On first hearing, I was slightly disappointed by a certain lack of robustness in the performance of Portsmouth Point. A second hearing reminded me not to be too affected by pre-conceived ideas. Gamba’s fine ear brings out details missed in more hectic performances. Rumon Gamba, for some reason, has a lower public profile in Britain than his outstanding talent deserves. Chandos are to be commended for the faith they have in him: he is a conductor of substance and talent.

An outstanding aspect of this release is the quality of the accompanying notes by Lewis Foreman and Rumon Gamba. Sound is characteristic Chandos, which means fine indeed. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales play idiomatically and enthusiastically. At times I might have liked a slightly greater weight in the string tone, but that did not mar my enjoyment. This is thoroughly recommendable for any lover of British music.

Michael Wilkinson
Previous review: Ian Lace

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