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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: 3 minutes 20 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)

Behind the lines
3 November 1917; movements 2 'The wayside shrine' and 4 'Rumours' are lost

Cortège  [5'37]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
While in uniform, Coles continued to compose, though, owing to the extenuating circumstances that prevailed, he did not aspire to the same ambitious scale of his pre-war orchestral works. A movement, ‘Triste et gai’, from his Fünf Skizzen for piano was orchestrated, and The Sorrowful Dance for piano was composed and sketched for orchestra in short score. Behind the lines, a four-movement suite for small orchestra, appears to have been begun in November 1917. The autograph manuscript of the first movement, ‘Estaminet de Carrefour’, in pencil is dated 3 November 1917 and was sent to Holst for perusal at or around Christmas of that year. Holst conjectured that ‘the other movements were destroyed by a shell during the retreat in March 1918’; he was partially correct. Two of the movements—‘The Wayside Shrine’ and ‘Rumours’—were never found, but a short score of the third movement, ‘Cortège’, survived with some indications of instrumentation.

Though slighter in stature than their more substantial orchestral forebears, these two beautifully crafted movements have a special poignancy and intimacy in the composer’s slender output in that they communicate something of Coles’s war experiences. ‘Estaminet de Carrefour’ (‘coffee-house, or tavern, at the crossroads’) provides a sketch of a northern French pastoral landscape, away from the horrors of the front. This is depicted in the outer sections where the amiable melodic material and its accompanying drone (or musette) is evocative of the folk music of Normandy, while the waltz of the trio suggests a more civilized, refined ‘Edwardian’ environ­ment, perhaps of a dance in dress uniform in the local town. The ‘Cortège’, on the other hand, provides us with a heroic picture of a military funeral procession, one of many that Coles no doubt witnessed in the three years he spent in the trenches. Its most haunting significance, however, is that it also movingly symbolizes the composer’s own ultimate sacrifice in April 1918 when he joined that ‘roll of honour’ of young musicians—George Butterworth, W C Denis Browne, and Ernest Farrar—whose talent remained unfulfilled.

from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 2002

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