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Hyperion Records

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The Road from Arras to Bapaume (1917) by Christopher Richard Wayne Nevinson (1889-1946)
Imperial War Museum, London
Track(s) taken from CDH55464
Recording details: December 2001
City Halls, Candleriggs, Glasgow, Scotland
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by John Timperley
Release date: June 2002
Total duration: 12 minutes 32 seconds

'A fascinating and rewarding discovery … performances, production and presentation are all past praise, and this is a disc already earmarked for my Critics’ Choice come the year’s end' (Gramophone)

'Excellent singing and committed playing on this disc' (BBC Music Magazine)

'It surely deserves a place in the repertory: English music has nothing quite like it' (The Sunday Telegraph)

'This handsomely presented disc is a rarity worth investigating' (The Observer)

'Coles’s own orchestral skills are amply demonstrated by the lush, full-bodied playing of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Coles emerges as one of the great lost hopes of British music' (The Independent)

'The six pieces recorded here justify the mourning of an unfulfilled talent' (International Record Review)

'I listened to it this week, and was moved to something dangerously adjacent to tears … what you chiefly hear in Coles’s compositions is nobility, haunting beauty and a strange, almost prophetic sense of tragedy’ (The Times)

'The works here show the power and intensity of a major talent' (Classic FM Magazine)

'My reactions to the music, even after listening to the disc for some weeks, still oscillate between amazement, melancholy, and gratitude, although they are gradually melding into a fusion of all three. I don’t doubt that it will affect you too' (Fanfare, USA)

'His music, touched by post-echoes of Brahms, Mendelssohn and Wagner, yet speaking unmistakably in its own accent, lives on in this outstandingly recorded new issue' (HMV Choice)

'The work’s surviving fragments receive their premiere recording on this Hyperion disc, which sees Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Scottish Symphony doing a terrific job on behalf of the composer' (Music Week)

'The music is solemn, poignant and majestic in conductor Brabbins’ orchestration … a genius? Yes, I think so. A great loss to music? Absolutely' (MusicWeb International)

'Dedicated performances beautifully recorded and fervently commended' (Yorkshire Post)

'Hyperion Records are to be applauded for resurrecting Behind the lines and the other works included here … all is beautifully played and sung, and warmly recommended' (The Western Front Association)

'Les interprétations de Brabbins sont proches de l’idéal et les musiciens écossais servent leur compatriote avec ferveur et précision' (Le Monde de la Musique, France)

From the Scottish Highlands
1905/7; full score dated 20 March 1907

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
From the Scottish Highlands occupied Coles for much of the time between 1905 and 1907 when he evidently contem­plated several different versions of the work, including one for piano and string orchestra. The subtitle ‘Romantic Suite’ which can be found on an earlier version of the Prelude (signed and dated by the composer in 1906) indicates that Coles had in mind those late nineteenth-century seminal paradigms of the genre by mainstream figures such as Bizet, Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Dvořák and others. Whether it was inspired purely by land­scape or by the romantic evocations of literature, notably of Walter Scott, is unclear. The full score of the suite From the Scottish Highlands is dated 20 March 1907 and also bears the address where the manuscript was completed, 32 Gower Place, London, the home of the young Coles during the time of his Cherubini Composition Scholarship at the London College of Music.

The first movement, ‘Prelude’, begins with a short scherzo in D minor which has a Mendelssohnian felicity in its light­weight scoring. This material appears to presage a movement of serious symphonic proportions, but it is abruptly cut short by the interjection of a ternary ‘dance’ movement in F major in which a central bolero-like dance is flanked by paragraphs featuring a simple, uncomplicated melody. This music has more in common with those lighter ‘salon’ scores of Elgar’s orches­tral miniatures and with Holst’s Suite de ballet.

The ‘Idyll’, subtitled ‘Love scene’, is unabashedly romantic, especially in the more voluptuous central section where the precedents of his late nineteenth-century forebears (notably Bruch and Tchaikovsky) are clearly evident. However, the thematic content of the outer sections with its pentatonic, pseudo-Scottish folksong, owes more to the Scottish romantic tradition of Mackenzie and MacCunn whose rhapsodies and suites still enjoyed a vogue among concert promoters and audiences during the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. MacCunn’s Highland Memories of 1896, in particular, seem a likely precedent. The unconventional tonal behaviour of the ‘Idyll’—though in A major it constantly gravitates to the dominant on which it ends somewhat cryptically—suggests, albeit tentatively, that the inexperienced Coles was showing signs of expanding his stylistic parameters. In the final ‘Lament’, a dark, brooding essay in B minor and by far the most contem­porary of the three movements, he shows a greater willingness to experiment with more modern developments of modality and chromaticism. These tendencies are powerfully evident in the opening section and its more forceful recapitulation, though for the ‘trio’, a tender waltz, Coles reverts to a more overtly nineteenth-century language.

from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 2002

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