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.