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Eric COATES (1886-1957)
Orchestral Works - Volume 1
The Merrymakers, a Miniature Overture (1922–23) [4:32]
The Jester at the Wedding : Suite from the Ballet (1932) [24:34]
Dancing Nights, Concert Valse (1931) [7:20]
Ballad, Op.2, for String Orchestra (1904) [5:52]
Two Symphonic Rhapsodies on Popular Songs (1933) [9:34]
By the Sleepy Lagoon, Valse-Serenade (1930) [3:57]
London (London Everyday) Suite for Orchestra (1932) [14:07]
BBC Philharmonic/John Wilson
rec. 2019, MediaCity UK, Salford, Manchester, UK
CHANDOS CHAN20036 [70.39]

John Wilson and Chandos are to be congratulated on embarking on this welcome new enterprise to record Eric Coates’ orchestral works with a greater chance of ‘permanence’ since the demise of the long lamented recording company, ASV.

John Wilson has already made a significant number of recordings of Eric Coates’ works: first for the now defunct ASV label (for details see end of this review) and then one very notable 2007 Dutton recording (CDLX 7198), Eric Coates Sound and Vision (review), which included orchestral songs, sung beguilingly by Sir Thomas Allen and Richard Edgar-Wilson.

But to this fine new recording, splendidly captured in the renowned Chandos sound. It opens with a suitably exciting and exuberant reading of Eric Coates’ Merrymakers Overture. It is delivered swiftly and definitely merrily in just over 4.5 minutes. [Coates himself (recorded it even more swiftly in 4.25 mins. (Conifer CDHD 211/212) but then Coates never dawdled conducting his own music].

Very welcome is The Jester at the Wedding. Briefly, the story of this ballet (it was never choreographed, and never even existed except in Eric’s and his wife’s imaginations), is about a Princess awaiting her wedding nuptials. She had always been fond of her court jester, and he of her. As they wait, the court orchestra plays: they begin to dance. They dance divinely together, and suddenly they realise that they love each other … but her betrothed Prince arrives … The six-movement suite is a delight. It is scored for a large light orchestra with trombones and piano. The whimsical, sprightly opening ‘March’ with its emotional trio section, hinting at romance and heartbreak, is immediately appealing and memorable. The following Minuet is dignified, slow and stately. The ‘Humoresque’, for the Jester’s pranks, is sprightly and merry, the lilting Orange blossoms waltz dainty and pretty and the Princess’s ‘Caprice’ dreamily, sweetly romantic. John Wilson delivers a nicely nuanced and characterful reading of this major Coates composition.

Dancing Nights must be one of Eric Coates’s loveliest, haunting melodies – and it receives a dream of a performance here.

Something of a rarity is this performance of Ballad Op. 2, clearly a very early work and a rather serious piece, yet clearly demonstrating the Coates gift for melody and orchestration.

Probably one of the best known of Coates’ pieces is By the Sleepy Lagoon, which has been introducing the BBC Radio’s Desert Island Discs for many decades. It was inspired by the view inland across the waters from Selsey Beach in Sussex, in Southern England.

The Two Symphonic Rhapsodies are another delight. The sections embracing a few of Eric Coates’s best-selling songs ‘I Pitch My Lonely Caravan’ and particularly ‘Bird Songs at Eventide’ ‘And I Heard You Singing’ are especially beguiling.

Finally there is a winning performance of Eric Coates’ London Suite: a rousing Tarantella for Covent Garden in which Coates appositely uses the melody for ‘Cherry Ripe;’ the hauntingly beautiful cello theme for Westminster and the never-to-be-forgotten Knightsbridge March that put BBC Radio’s In Town Tonight squarely on the map in the 1930s and onwards.

Throughout this appealing collection John Wilson demonstrates his enduring love of and empathy with the joie de vivre spirit of the compositions of Eric Coates (unofficially known as the ‘Uncrowned King of Light Music’). These readings undoubtedly match those historical recordings made by Eric Coates’ champion Stanford Robinson and, indeed by Eric Coates himself

Ian Lace

Previous review: Brian Wilson

John Wilson’s recordings of Eric Coates works for ASV
‘Under the Stars’ - 17 Orchestral Miniatures ASV CD WHL 2107 (1996)
- By the Tamarisk/Coquette/For Your Delight/ The Green Land (Rhodesia)/ I Sing To You/Idyll/Impressions of a Princess/Last Love/ Mirage/ Over to You/Salute the Soldier/Summer Afternoon/Sweet Seventeen/Two Light Syncopated Pieces: Moon Magic/ The Rose of Samarkand/ Under the Stars/The Unknown Singer.

The Enchanted Garden - 10 Orchestral Pieces ASV CD WHL 2112(1998)
London Calling/Symphonic Rhapsody: I pitch my lonely caravan at night/Springtime Suite/ The Enchanted Garden/The Seven Seas/ la Gavotte/ Dancing Nights/ Symphonic Rhapsody on a song by Richard Rogers: ‘With a Song in my Heart’/Lazy Night/High Flight.

[There are also two other ASV Eric Coates albums featuring The East of England Orchestra conducted by Malcolm Nabarro (Vol 1 CD WHL 2053 (1991) and Vol 2 CD WHL 2075 (1993) that features The Jester at the Wedding)]

Additionally –
John Wilson has recorded a further album of Eric Coates’s music in 2003, entitled
London Again -
- issued under the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s own label (AV2070). It comprised: Footlights concert valse/The Three Men Suite/The Selfish Giant /London Again Suite/ Cinderella/ Summer Days Suite/ (BBC) Television March



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