This new release, recorded in Dublin in November 1995, is a welcome addition
to Marco Polos British Light Music series. It does not
take very long for Hedges fine melodies to lodge themselves in the
listeners memory and there will be few who can resist returning to
this disc after one hearing.
The Four Breton Sketches (1980) which open the programme were in-spired by
the composers memories of a holiday in Brittany: the third movement
is the most striking with its graphic depiction of motor horns sounding,
interrupting the genial mood of a promenade walk. The piece itself is an
intricately woven Rondo in miniature but characteristically with Hedges,
subtle formal workings are masked by the instantly appeal-ing musical ideas.
The Cantilena (1983) is a wistful and haunting Andante tranquillo, a
re-orchestration of the slow movement of a Suite for eight pianists and four
pianos called Pieces of Eight (1982). Its principal theme has a luminous
beauty and stays in the mind long after the disc has finished.
The high spirits of the superb Overture: Heigham Sound place it in the same
company as Alwyns Derby Day, Waltons Scapino. Mathiass
Dance and Rawsthornes Street Corner. Perhaps the most
English-sounding of the works on this disc, it was originally
a shorter orchestral piece called Holiday Overture: it is the perfect
introduction to Anthony Hedges art and really should have been the
opening work on this CD. The Four Miniature Dances (1967) are musical snapshot
characterisa-tions of the composers children and exhibit much charm
as well as demonstrating great restraint and resource in their orchestration.
Scenes from the Humber (1981) was written to celebrate the opening of the
Humber Bridge and its four movements describe areas and features associated
with the Humber. The final movement, Humber Keel Horn-pipe, is delightfully
Waltonesque (this is the only time listening to the disc, however, that I
was forcefully reminded of another composers style, so distinctive
is Hedges writing).
Finally, Kingston Sketches (1969) pro-vide three portraits of Hull or more
accurately three miniatures based on some of the exotic-sounding street names
to be encountered in that City. The Whitefriargate Waltz is instantly memorable
and the jaunty Feren-sway March provides a suitably upbeat end to this most
enjoyable selection.Nonetheless, there are some cautionary notes to be sounded:
the last two pieces on the disc have been recorded before by the composer
on a Meridian Records LP with his own Humberside Sinfonia and in both cases
I much prefer the vigour and vitality of these 1981 performances to the rather
safe and sometimes cautious-sounding interpretations on the Marco Polo release
- it is no coincidence that all seven tracks have gained in length on the
new disc and the added weight causes the 1995 versions to linger and lumber
occasionally where the 1981 recordings flare and fizz. Also, the dynamic
range of the new disc seems more restricted than that of the 1981 LP.
However, despite these reservations, the disc is still a marvellous opportunity
to hear British Light Music of the highest quality. I do hope Marco Polo
(or some other enlightened company) will consider more serious orchestral
music by Anthony Hedges: in particular, the two Symphonies, the Variations
on a theme of Rameau, Festival Dances and Sinfonia Concertante all desperately
need committing to disc.
biography of Hedges