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Matthew CURTIS (b.1959)
Orchestral Works - Volume 5
Light Blue Suite (2014) [13:02]
Italian Rhapsody (1987) [7:58]
Lambeth Bridge (2007) [3:43]
Ballet Suite (2014-15) [30:54]
Jubilee Serenade (2012) [3:32]
Dreaming [4:16]
50 Not Out! (2009) [7:11]
Marching Light (2010) [3:54]
Royal Ballet Sinfonia/Gavin Sutherland
No recording details
CAMPION CAMEO 2090 [75:14]

Matthew Curtis sits fairly and squarely in the august lineage of British light music, from Coleridge-Taylor and, especially, Eric Coates onwards. Hints of Walton also infuse the music to good effect. As the previous volumes in this and other series have shown - his music has appeared on ASV White Line, Naxos, and Heritage – there is still much to be said in this genre when it’s said as wittily as here and when, moreover, orchestration remains clean, and tunes fresh (see reviews of Volume 2 ~ Volume 3 ~ Volume 4).

Suites, serenades and rhapsodies are the name of the game here. The three-movement Light Blue Suite has the buoyancy of rhythm and éclat of Eric Coates, tinged with a sympathetic, Waltonian B section that generates an affectionate buoyancy. The tenderly affectionate Barcarolle pays tribute to the late wife of the work’s commissioner. We also discover Mascagni’s long-lost Adagio, also known as Curtis’s Italian Rhapsody, with its yearning violin passage and ripely effusive warmth. Lambeth Bridge returns us to the Thames for another slice of the Coates cake which offers a spruce almost-recreation of one of his 1930s masterpieces of light verve.

But Curtis is not a filcher and seems to inhabit the genre naturally. Indeed, his symphonic concert work Ballet Suite – it’s assuredly not a suite derived from a pre-existing ballet, it’s a specifically composed ‘ballet suite’, as per the title – demonstrates his supply of highly communicative and engaging writing. This is a given as this work is the longest in the disc and thrives on contrasts of mood and texture, ranging from the slightly Latino Street Scene, through a Waltz, a splendid Pas de Deux, the witty byplay of the Comic Scene (complete with bassoon) and carnivalesque raillery – but also a sensitive and deft passage for solo violin – in the finale.

The Jubilee Serenade is lightly scored – less is assuredly more here - and whilst generally avuncular, I’d point out that it takes real skill and a true gift to write a tune as beautiful as the one enshrined here. Don’t overlook 50 Not Out! where there are some rather Dvořákian elements, to my ear. English light music often looked to Tchaikovsky and Dvořák in the early years of the twentieth century. We take our envoi with a bit of confident flag waving, via Marching Light – confidently Coatesian.

First-rate performances and recording quality enhance a production graced by the composer’s own booklet notes. If you are still mourning the passing of the Golden Age of British Light Music, lend an ear to Matthew Curtis.

Jonathan Woolf

 

 




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