It is salutary to note that only two of the three composers, in this compilation, both of whom are no longer with us, provide what was always the pre-requisite of light music – memorable tunes that one could whistle or hum in the street. None of the others, except perhaps David Lyon, provide anything like as good a strong tune as Geoffrey Toye’s magical waltz from his ballet music for The Haunted Ballroom – some not even a hint.
Peter Hope best known for his Ring of Kerry suite has worked for film composers James Horner and John Williams. His Kaleidoscope is a colourful patina, embracing a wide variety of moods and styles, as the title would suggest, and is a pleasant diversion that showpieces every section of the orchestra. John Fox ‘s A Pastoral Reflection is an amiable, fluttering pastoral ramble. Paul Lewis’s Inauguration is an unoriginal pastiche of Elgar, Bliss and Walton in ceremonial mood. Brian Douglas’s Music for Strings is in three brief two-minute movements: a bracing and jolly ‘Opening’ with a quiet interlude nodding back to 16th - 18th century styles, and in the same old-world style, a drowsy ‘Minuet’ redolent of hot summer days, plus a bustling, breezy ‘Finale’. Thomas Pitfield’s Overture on North-Country Tunes is a good-humoured work employing a number of folk-tunes including: ‘The Derby Ram’, ‘John Peel’, ‘The Keel Row’ and ‘The Lincolnshire Poacher’. All of these pieces are amiable background music.
Gavin Sutherland’s glamorous Capriol Overture opens with a bang, and is an attractive upbeat little work that recalls the dance music of the ballet, the between-the-wars English musical theatre and the great M-G-M musicals.
I am a great admirer of the light music of David Lyon. [I recommend Marco Polo’s album devoted to his music in their British Light Music Series (8.225039)] Lyon’s Adagio Serioso is a lovely, deeply-felt romantic little work and his Rondoletta a cheerful quirkily attractive piece that might suggest a 19th century carriage ride. These two little pieces come closest to my criteria of memorable melody as a must for successful light music.
Sir John Barbirolli’s arrangement of music for the clarinet concerto (probably for the Hallé’s principal clarinettist, Patrick Ryan [from 1936 to 1958]), comes from movements from Handel’s last four ‘concertos for solo violin, the fourth of Nine Sonatas or Trios for two violins (or flutes or oboes), an aria from Act II of Belshazzar, and the Second Organ Concerto to make up its four movements. The result is typical 18th century charm and elegance in an Andante, an Allegro, a Largo and a final Allegro.
The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, is presumably used for economic reasons rather than a British orchestra. Nevertheless under the baton of Gavin Sutherland they equit themselves very well.
Except for Toye’s The Haunted Ballroom, that is available elsewhere, this collection is somewhat short on memorable melodies but it makes attractive and undemanding listening.