June 2002 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Compilation: The Symphonic Eric COATES
The Dam Busters March; Cinderella; The Three Bears; The Selfish Giant; London Suite, Miniature Suite; Joyous Youth Suite  
  BBC Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Rumon Gamba
  CHANDOS CHAN 9869 [ 79:27]

Symphonic Eric Coates

Eric Coates's stirring patriotic march, The Dam Busters, was one of the highlights of the 1954 British film of the same name, now reissued on DVD and reviewed on this site this month. On this new Chandos album it is given a stirring reading by Rumon Gamba and the BBC Philharmonic. Eric Coates, previously dissuaded from writing for films by Sir Arthur Bliss, came to film music late in his life (he died in December 1957) and scored only one other film, High Flight (1957) a forgettable tale about trainee air cadets.

The other items are non-film music, but this generously filled album has considerable appeal. Don't be put off by the appelation 'The symphonic…' Eric Coates was a professional viola player with the London Symphony Orchestra before he turned exclusively to composition so his music is expertly scored. He was known as the 'Uncrowned King of Light Music' and his works brim with good memorable tunes and he was not above weaving elements of jazz and popular dance idioms into his compositions. His three Phantasies: Cinderella, The Selfish Giant and The Three Bears (the latter written for his son, Austin when he was four years old) follow the traditional story lines and have great wit and charm. Gamba delivers lively, nicely accented and characterful performances.

Eric Coates' London Suite is justly famous for its Knightsbridge March, which was used by BBC Radio to introduce its In Town Tonight programmes of the 1930s and '40s. As such, it drew 30,000 enquiries from listeners wanting to know its title - a big thing in those days. The earliest Eric Coates composition is his Miniature Suite of 1911 recalling the grace and elegance of the period and showing influences of Edward German.

The ebullient Joyous Youth Suite from the early 1920s is recorded here for the first time in modern sound.

An album full of bright cheerful melodies and stirring marches. Recommended.

Ian Lace


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