Paul LEWIS (b.1949)
Heritage and Landscape
1. Heritage Suite (1990) [10:28]
2. English Country Pictures (1988) [12:49]
3. Sussex Variations (1972) [15:44]
4. An English Overture (1971) [4:48]
5. An English Fieldscape (1993) [10:25]
6. Festival of London March (1970) [4:01]
7. Seasonal Variations (1988) [4:13]
8. Battle Over Britain (1990) [10:20]
Paul Lewis (conductor)
EM RECORDS EMRCD039 [73:05]
Paul Lewis is a composer of many TV themes and he has had several CDs of his music released. These include Serenade and Dance and Three Decades of TV Themes of which the latter contains themes, many of which would be familiar to watchers of serials from the 1970s to the early 2000s. Of Lewis’s delightful music EM Records – who have also championed his music in an orchestral anthology - have brought together eight works conducted by the composer. They date from sessions over more than twenty years and with a variety of orchestras. The collection works extremely well and in these re-mastered recordings from the 1970s-90s the quality of playing is certainly very high.
The disc starts off in fine style with The Heritage Suite. The first movement of the suite is Cutty Sark, a tribute to the famous tea clipper of the East India run. I love Cornish Express about the train that runs from London to Penzance and until the 1950s was of course steam. In the very detailed notes, Paul Lewis describes English Country Pictures as the musical equivalents of landscape paintings and as a lover of English paintings, I totally concur. He has certainly captured “England’s Green and Pleasant Land”. Lewis comes from Sussex, and in the Sussex Variations, which was written for Living with Colour, he perfectly emulates the countryside, rather as, in a different genre, folksinger John Martyn does in Glistening Glyndebourne.
An English Overture brings in well-known sea shanties and the orchestra play with huge aplomb, tremendous fun all round! An English Fieldscape is, as Paul Lewis says, more intimate, and could be said at times to have, shades of Ravel. Festival of London March was written for the 21st Anniversary of the London Festival Ballet and performed in the presence of H.M. Princess Margaret in 1971. It is suitably full of pomp and swagger and must have been well received; it certainly deserved to. Seasonal Variations are very short variations of the four seasons and are quite charming. The playing here of The Philharmonia is quite outstanding. In Winter Chill the image of a cold and crisp December day is almost tangible and gets the listeners reaching for their overcoats.
One of my favourite films is “The Battle of Britain” from 1969. The music was composed by Sir William Walton but after controversy (review review), only Battle in the Air, towards the end of the film, was used. For Battle over Britain Paul Lewis was commissioned in 1990 (the 50th.Anniversary of the Battle) by John Gale to write a commemorative piece. This was performed under the composer at the Last Night of the Proms at the Derngate Proms Northampton. It’s an excellent work and very much conveys the one-to-one combat over the Kent countryside by men who were often under twenty years old, whose bravery still moves us today and which undoubtedly prevented a Nazi invasion. It is more concise than Walton’s piece for the reason that the latter had to be the length of the film sequence; for that reason, I think it makes more impact but I’m not suggesting one is better than the other. I should here commend the re-mastering. This was done by John McMillan, except for An English Overture which fell to Lucy Woodward. All the pieces sound splendid as indeed do the various orchestras.
This is a superb collection of works by a composer who really knows how to paint pictures in sound. I look forward to further releases with keen anticipation.
David R Dunsmore
Belgian Symphony Orchestra (3, 4); Paris Studio Symphony Orchestra (6); Midland Philharmonic Orchestra (1, 8); Philharmonia Orchestra (2, 7); Studio Chamber Orchestra (5)
rec. 1971-72, Studio Fonior, Brussels (3, 4); 1970, Bois de Boulogne Studio, Paris (6); 1990, CTS London (1, 8); 1988, Angel Studios, London (2, 7); 1993, St. John’s Church, Longton, Essex (5)