Sir Malcolm Arnold: Overture - The Roots of
Heaven; William Alwyn: Suite of Scottish Dances;
Sir Malcolm Sargent: An Impression on a Windy Day;
Clifton Parker: Overture - The Glass Slipper;
James Langley: The Coloured Counties; Gordon Jacob:
The Barber of Seville Goes to the Devil; Maurice
Johnstone: Tarn Hows - A Cumbrian Rhapsody; Alan
Langford: Overture - Two Worlds; Sir Richard Rodney
Bennett: Little Suite; David Lyon: Overture -
Joie de vivre.
This is an enterprising and entertaining programme of light music by British
composers many of whom have written for the screen.
Arnold's Overture: The Roots of Heaven is directly linked to the film
of the same name starring Errol Flynn in his penultimate role, with Orson
Welles, Trevor Howard and Juliette Greco. It was set in Africa and this Overture,
written for the film's London premiere, responds to all the elements of the
screenplay: elephants, the Americans and the love interest. Arnold, as usual,
juxtaposes an imposing fanfare and highly evocative African sound
landscape-painting with quirky, jazzy rhythms and a broad, sweeping romantic
melody; a minor tour de force.
William Alwyn, of course, scored many British films, but he is represented
here by his jolly Suite of Scottish dances strongly based on traditional
Scottish tunes. I was especially intrigued by the second dance entitled A
Trip to Italy it is as though the Cock of the North is meeting Respighi's
The Birds; and by Carleton House which seems to transport the dancing to
Sir Malcolm Sargent is remembered as a distinguished conductor especially
by older British Promenade Concert enthusiasts, yet his An Impression
on a Windy Day shows that he had considerable skills as a composer. This
is highly pictorial music, supremely evocative; Sargent vividly captures
the atmosphere of a wild, blustery day with music that reminds one of Mendelssohn
while the more romantic elements recall Eric Coates. (Has the work a hidden
programme about a pair of lovers' sometimes stormy relationship?) This is
a perfect little gem that makes one wonder what Sargent might have accomplished
if he had chosen to develop this facet of his talents.
Clifton Parker wrote the music for the film Sink the Bismark. His
Overture to his children's operetta, The Glass Slipper, based on the
Cinderella story, is included here. It is an appealing, jolly,
Mendelssohnian-quick-silver, yet dainty scherzo. Gordon Jacob well known
as a master arranger and orchestrator is represented by his wickedly funny
The Barber of Seville Goes to the Devil a brilliant parody on the
famous Rossini Overture. Considering the pathetic nag that the Barber rides,
no wonder such a fate befalls him! This item is a riot and worth the price
of the CD alone!
James Langley's The Coloured Counties takes its name from a quotation
from a line in Bredon Hill from A.E. Housman's A Shropshire Lad: "Here
of a Sunday morning, My love and I would lie, And see the coloured counties,
And here the larks so high, About us in the sky." The music is nicely, hazily,
evocative and lightly romantic with some rather odd Celtic inflections. But
the highlight of this CD, for me, is Tarn Hows, Maurice Johnstone's
Cumbrian rhapsody celebrating the loveliness of this stretch of water lying
between Coniston and Hawkshead in the English Lake District. Johnstone's
music magically paints Tarn Hows slowly shrugging off early morning mists,
then resplendent, glistening under the midday sun to the admiration of its
many visitors and then bathed in serene, spectral, moonlit beauty.
Alan Langford wrote his Two Worlds to a BBC commission. The intriguing
Overture is perky and full of good humour; it is a neat combination of the
elegantly classical and colourful Latin American rhythms. Sir Richard Rodney
Bennett has notched up many celebrated film scores but her we have a charming
set of little pieces comprising his enchanting Little Suite, its
movements, for the most part, named after birds. This magical little work
with its gentle waltz rhythms is comfortably and charmingly redolent of a
children's world of long ago - a nice romantic nostalgic wallow. Finally
there is another work principally for younger audiences - David Lyon's colourful
Overture - Joie de vivre which is full of just that.
Gavin Sutherland and the Royal Ballet Sinfonia deliver sparkling and sympathetic
performances of all these little gems.