HRH The Duke of Cambridge March, Sir Malcolm Arnold *
Divertissement, Bryan Kelly * Romeo and Juliet, Constant
Lambert * Elegiac Blues, Constant Lambert * Three Dances for
Orchestra, David Lyon * Promenade, Carlo Martelli * Overture
for Farnham, Alan Rawsthorne * Celestial Fire, Patric Standford
This album continues in the vein of the preceding two volumes of British
Light Music Discoveries, offering eight works which could as easily
be considered 'classical' as 'light'. From the perspective of Film Music
on the Web the disc is of associational interest, containing no film
music, but music by several composers who have worked for the screen - Malcolm
Arnold, Constant Lambert, David Lyon, Carlo Martelli and Alan Rawsthorne
- and a considerable amount of melody which sounds as if it could have come
from the cinema. In-fact, all of the music here could at sometime or other
have fitted quite happily into a British film.
There are four short pieces and four longer works, the disc sequenced to
alternate between these. The music is well documented, a good thing when
most, if not all, of the pieces will be unfamiliar. The only puzzle is why
all three albums carry covers depicting old-fashioned sporting scenes. Much
as I try I can not make any association between any of this music and a football
Things get off to a rousing start with Sir Malcolm Arnold's irresistibly
festive HRH The Duke of Cambridge March (1957), here arranged for
orchestra by producer Philip Lane. This is a deliriously jaunty number, quite
a contrast to the composer's The Bridge on the River Kwai March
of the same year. It may all be over in three minutes, but it is a gem to
be cherished. Constant Lambert's Elegiac Blues was written in memory
of the singer Florence Mills in 1927 yet the mood is anything but mournful.
It would seem this energetic and tuneful romp celebrated the singer's life,
rather than commemorated her death. Alan Rawsthorne's Overture for
Farnham was a commission for the 1967 Farnham Festival, and combines
a neo-Handelian theme with a melody very much in the lineage of the film
scores the composer wrote in the 1950's. By far the most recent work, Carlo
Martelli's Promenade (1985) is a witty and flirtatious anachronism
deliberately harking back to the 1950's, a piece which might have sprung
from a worker's playtime or an Ealing comedy.
Bryan Kelly's Divertissment (1969) offers four movements, each based
on a French folk song. The mood is essentially playful, and with the village
brass band never far away one can easily imagine Jacques Tati getting into
all sorts of trouble to this. Three Dances for Orchestra (1975)
by David Lyon mixes jazz and theatre with robust melody suggestive of a
CinemaScope canvas. The 'Pas de deux' offers romance from tentative to tender,
and really does sound as if it should come from a film. A good one too. The
finale, a 'Hornpipe' is full of the promise of adventure. Curiously, it would
sound equally at home in Copland's West.
The Second Tableau from Constant Lambert's ballet, for Diaghilev,
Romeo and Juliet (1926) is presented complete in 8 movements. Affirming
that post-modernism was around long before it was supposed to be invented,
this Romeo and Juliet is about a ballet company putting on a ballet
of Romeo and Juliet, the events in the company coming to parallel
those of the play, while the music offers a neo-classical reflection of the
Italian Renaissance decades before Nino Rota drew on similar sources for
the 1968 film version of the play. And proving this is a thoroughly modern
reinterpretation, the lovers survive to elope by aeroplane. The music is
appropriately full of vivacity, charm and cunning little jokes.
The album ends with at five movement suite from Patric Standford's 1968 ballet
Celestial Fire. Despite the title, the scenario concerns an old
exile looking back on his youth, and is therefore the most nostalgic and
bitter-sweet work in the programme, the a pastoral waltz being a real highlight.
The 'Doll's Dance' full of youthful charm and the exuberant 'Round Dance'
provides a boisterous finale. It's not especially distinguished, but it is
attractive while it lasts.
What more can be said other than that this is another enthusiastic and colourful
tribute to an old too often overlooked aspect of British music? The sound
is first rate and Barry Wordworth encourages excellent performances from
the Royal Ballet Sinfonia. Devotees of an earlier style of British film music
should find much to delight.
Gary S. Dalkin