Collection: British Light Music Discoveries.
Music by Sir Malcolm Arnold, Philip Lane, William
Blezard, Eric Fenby, Raymond Warren, Adrian Cruft, Anthony Hedges, Paul
Lewis and Arthur
Royal Ballet Sinfonia conducted
by Gavin Sutherland
ASV CD WHL 2126
Discoveries is the operative word here, for this is an engaging collection
of very little known, accessible and melodic little gems from composers who
in the main have strong links with films and television.
Sir Malcolm Arnolds contribution to the movies is well known. His
Little Suite, which opens the concert, begins with a Prelude that
wittily lampoons Elgarian/Waltonian ceremonial music. A hesitant, plaintive
Siciliano follows, rather Ravel-like that becomes something of a lullaby
with strains of the nursery tune, Rock-a-bye Baby. The suite
ends raucously with a Rondo that seems to visit Londons Cockney East
William Blezard (b. 1921) worked at the Rank studios at Denham on films like
Noel Cowards The Astonished Heart but he is best known as
accompanist to Joyce Grenfell and Marlene Dietrich, Max Wall and Honor Blackman.
His lovely composition, The River is a real find. It dates from 1969
and was written following a visit to Australia. It pictures a couple meeting
by a gently running stream that pervades virtually every bar of the score
but how magically Blezard uses his orchestral palette. The couple seem to
meet tentatively, the orchestral colours muted, with material mostly in the
low woodwinds. Then passion overwhelms them, the instrumental colours lighten
while the music intensifies, the waters seeming more tumultuous. The work
ends serenely on harp and violins
Adrian Crufts (1921-87) Traditional Hornpipe Suite originally
formed an accompaniment to a mime play, The Seafarers, which was presented
by the Scottish Childrens Theatre and received a Royal Command performance
at Balmoral in 1957.
The suite consists of six sparkling movements with the hornpipes in various
guises emulating English and Scottish folk music.
Eric Fenby is best known as Deliuss amanuensis but he also wrote the
music for Alfred Hitchcocks Jamaica Inn that starred Charles
Laughton. Rossini on Ilkla Moor, is, as the name implies, a very clever
and amusing pastiche in the style of Rossini, as though the Italian composer
might have composed the famous Yorkshire folk tune.
Raymond Warrens (b. 1928) Wexford Bells is a most appealing
pastiche with much humour. It is scored for a smallish orchestra; the size
of what was then the BBC Northern Ireland Light Orchestra for which it was
commissioned. The opening Shepherds Dance is charming with
high woodwinds playful over persistent snare drum; there is a Handelian elegance
too. This movement together with the plaintive lullaby that follows is based
on material from a 17th century Dublin lute book. Christmas Jig
is a joyful celebration with many familiar Irish cadences present; and the
fourth movement Wexford Bells with its chiming rhythms has
celebratory tubular bell figures and laughing, chattering woodwinds.
Arthur Butterworths (b. 1923) The Path Across the Moors is vividly
evocative of hikers plodding up steep, stony slopes (with Mrs
Ramsbottom puffing and panting in the rear?) There are also intimations
of bleating sheep, thunder claps and winds. But all seems to be worth the
glorious view from the peak. The work ends quietly as the walkers fade into
the distance leaving the landscape empty and still.
Anthony Hedges (b.1931) An Ayrshire Serenade is a very vibrant
and colourfully kaleidoscopic invention that takes the music on a longish
journey, through many styles from its Scottish roots. Paul Lewiss (b.
1943) English Overture is another puckish arrangement and assembly
of well-known West Country folk tunes like Uncle Tom Cobley
The concert concludes with a work by Philip Lane well known to visitors of
this site as a film score reconstructionist and producer etc. (He has produced
this album). Philips beautifully harmonised and orchestrated Suite
of Cotswold Dances opens with the Wheatley Processional full
of fun and joie de vivre. Constant Billy is a lovely fragrant
romance, full of nostalgic charm. Brighton Camp is another charmer,
Jockie to the Fair is more boozy and rumbustious. Ladies
of Pleasure is all dreamy romantic pastels and the concluding
Princess Royal is a merry rustic dance.
The Royal Ballet Orchestra clearly enjoy themselves making these light music
discoveries and the sound is excellently engineered. Recommended.