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British Serenade 2
Philip SPRATLEY (b.1942)
Farewell Suite Op. 8 [17:04]
Bryan KELLY (b.1934)
Concerto da camera* [12:50]
Paul LEWIS (b.1943)
Pavane* [4:28]
Charles PATERSON (b.1954)
Concertino [5:40]
Christopher WRIGHT (b.1954)
Solus* [9:18]
Capricorn (Five diversions on an original theme) [11:05]
Ecclesbourne Glen (An Elegy)* [7:17]
Peter HOPE (b.1930)
The Bells of Aberdovey (Clychau Aberdyfi) [3:48]
Thomas HEWITT JONES (b.1984)
Momentum* [3:42]
Rachael Clegg (oboe), John Turner (recorders), John Bradbury (clarinet), Manchester Sinfonia / Philip Spratley, composer*
rec. 2018, St. Thomas’s Church, Stockport

This is a follow up disc to Heritage’s British Serenade CD which I reviewed with great enthusiasm in August 2016. The majority of the works presented here are very much in the tradition of British light orchestral music. The best description is probably “easy on the ear” but don’t expect novelty items along the lines of Barwick Green, Vanity Fair and Devil’s Galop. What we have instead is a collection of attractive, well-crafted unpretentious pieces.

Spratley’s Farewell Suite recalls his time at the Royal Northern College of Music. The opening movement is a wistful depiction of the old college buildings and memories of times gone by. The other movements are somewhat more jolly, especially the ‘Gavotta’ which is a short portrait of the horn player Anthony Halstead. The Concerto da Camera is typical of Bryan Kelly’s work. It is structurally satisfying and the finale has a bouncy, foot-tapping tune. The Pavane by Paul Lewis was originally written for the organ and made its debut at a memorial service. It is a moving piece that works beautifully in the transcription for strings as recorded here. The Concertino by Paterson is light, tuneful and frothy, with its bright orchestration matching the solo recorder perfectly. Solus by Wright takes us to a somewhat higher level of invention. Solus is a word used to describe a solo actor in the theatre. The role of solus is taken up by the harp supported by a string orchestra. It is a work that is monotonous in terms of speed, dynamic and time signature, but has a remarkable trance-like impact as it wends its way. Capricorn is a substantial concertante piece running for 11 minutes. It opens and closes with an original theme presented by the solo clarinet. There are five variations on the theme, each one being either perky or introspective. Ecclesbourne Glen is an elegy that recalls a beauty spot near Hastings and the music is very beautiful indeed. High on atmosphere, it is reminiscent of Sospiri with a nod in the direction of Vaughan Williams. The Bells of Aberdovey showcases the solo recorder and in its short time-span it cleverly weaves All Through the Night into its fabric. The CD closes with the repetitious but unrelenting Momentum. This minimalist piece has a strong pulse and the title is well warranted.

All the performances are first class. The Manchester Sinfonia is a recently established professional concert orchestra. Its members work regularly with Manchester Camerata, the Halle, BBC Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Opera North. With a complement of around 12 musicians they play with affection and commitment throughout as do the soloists. The recording is clear and warm with a good stereo image. There is some unusual, original music to be heard here and should be of substantial interest to adventurous listeners who are seeking out something different.

John Whitmore

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