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Eric COATES (1886–1957)
Orchestral Works - Volume 2
London Bridge, March (1934) [4:07]
The Selfish Giant, a Phantasy for Orchestra (1925) [9:38]
Wood Nymphs, Valsette (1917) [3:21]
The Enchanted Garden, a Ballet (1938) [18:50]
For Your Delight, Serenade (1937) [3:41]
Summer Days Suite (1919) [10:55]
Lazy Night, Valse Romance (1931) [2:46]
Calling All Workers, March (1940) [3:05]
BBC Philharmonic/John Wilson
rec. 2019, MediaCityUK, Salford, Manchester, UK
CHANDOS CHAN20148 [57:08]

The second volume in John Wilson’s Eric Coates edition for Chandos reprises the excellence to be found in the first. As is widely known Wilson has recorded much Coates for other labels but to find him return to the repertoire in a more formalized way is especially good news.

The works here were composed in the near quarter-century between 1917 and 1940 – from one world war to another. But the disc opens with the evergreen London Bridge where he follows precisely the composer’s own tempo in his 1946 shellac recording, not the abridged 10” 1934 effort that was slightly cut to make the three-minute timing. This means Wilson doesn’t slow too much for the second theme, all to the good in my book, and shows his heels to the otherwise excellent Barry Wordsworth in his LPO/Lyrita traversal. The Selfish Giant, a phantasy for orchestra, has been newly edited here by Wilson. For all the talk of Wilson’s Top Gun vitesse in his performances, what I particularly enjoy is the way he transitions from section to section. So here the way he slides from the Allegro agitato so fluently and fluidly into the ensuing Andante passage is especially notable. He encourages the BBC Philharmonic’s winds to play out and capitalizes on the romanza element in this charming score, one that’s too often overlooked. The earliest score is Wood Nymphs, a dapper and charm-rich valsette, very different from the later concert waltz Dancing Nights of 1932. Once again, the orchestra’s winds are on top piping form in the clear textures and Coates admirers will note that their composing hero never got to record the complete version of this piece. All three of his 78s omitted the brief introductory passage.

The ballet score The Enchanted Garden is inevitably encountered as a concert piece. In his earlier 1998 recording of it on ASV Wilson was slower than his current self and, true to form, he whizzes past Wordsworth who takes 21 minutes to Wilson’s 19. Wilson’s recording is also, and inevitably, far more opulent than that afforded venerable Stanford Robinson and his Pro Arte forces; this has subsequently made it to CD but my working copy is an LP, and a fine souvenir too of this largely forgotten musician. Try Wilson’s phrasal ardour in the second section (track 5) or the elegance of the sixth track. Wilson really digs into the Gershwinesque dance band antics of the Allegretto (track 7); the shades of Henry Hall, Jack Jackson and Jack Hylton would doubtless approve his tempo and rhythm here.

For Your Delight is a charmer, crisply accented (is that a vibraharp at the end?), whilst Summer Days (edited by Wilson) is an ever-enjoyable triptych. It’s a shame Coates’ own recording of this in 1937 saw cuts to the first two movements but fortunately his 1926 recording with the New Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra was more generous in this respect. Wilson reminds me of Boult in the first two movements – Boult was a good conductor of Coates as his Lyrita disc shows – but Wilson surges past him in the finale, At the Dance, getting close to Coates’s own tempo which is the tempo Charles Mackerras took in his CfP recording of this movement. Incidentally, all Coates’ own recordings have been reissued in splendid boxes (see review). Lazy Nights is a Valse romance, again edited by Wilson and he has wielded his pen too in the case of Calling All Workers though I wonder in what way, given its popularity.

In any case, whilst this is a shorter length CD than its predecessor – 57 minutes to 70 - it contains a fine selection of pieces, cannily distributed so as the smaller works break up the larger ones, and played and directed with relish.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Brian Wilson



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